Coming from a small secondary school in Dorset, one thing I worried about before starting university was feeling anonymous. At school, I’d felt so supported by my teachers and my friends knew me better than I knew myself! I imagined university to be completely different. Accommodation blocks filled with identical rooms; lecture theatres packed with nameless faces and staff who don’t know your name. For me, despite being lucky enough to make fantastic friends during my first few weeks and loving my course, it was volunteering that brought fulfilment to my life as a student and allowed me to feel at home in York.
One of my favourite volunteering opportunities in York has been working as a volunteer mentor for local children’s charity The Island. The Island train volunteers to provide ‘islands of time and space’ for vulnerable children. After training, mentors are paired with a young person whom they meet with once a week to enjoy activities such as bowling, playing cards, going for a walk or visiting the library. I’ve had so many memorable experiences with my mentee and being a mentor has definitely been one of my university highlights! Volunteering allows me to escape the university bubble and explore new areas of York. It also helps me feel part of the city and gives me a sense of purpose and belonging, something that’s often difficult to find as a student living away from home.
A second volunteering opportunity I’ve loved is the University of York Music Education Group (MEG). MEG is a university society that provides music workshops to local schools, hospitals and care homes. MEG run a diverse range of workshops in areas including Samba, African drumming, general musicianship and composition. Volunteering with MEG has allowed me to get to know a new group of students at the university and the positive energy and fun that members bring to every meeting is so inspiring.
There are many ways to help turn your university city into your new home but for me, volunteering has been one of the most important things on my journey to finding belonging and purpose at uni.