After graduating from Manchester Met in 2015, Politics graduate Magda Romaniuk volunteered as a Research Assistant in Grenada for the summer. She has recently worked as a Student and Employer Engagement Intern for Careers and Employability as part of the Manchester Met Graduate Internship Scheme. Here, she talks about her experience, the skills gained from volunteering and why students should take advantage of volunteering opportunities.

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I first started to think about volunteering abroad after attending the ‘Soon is Now’ employability event held by the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Science where alumni shared their career stories.

After doing my research, I very quickly decided that volunteering abroad was for me. Considering my love for travelling and animals, I chose to volunteer as a Research Assistant with Ocean Spirits Inc. in the Caribbean to work on a conservation project to protect endangered leatherback sea turtles in Grenada.

From day one, my experience was remarkable. On our very first day, we encountered a leatherback sea turtle nesting on the Levera Beach, where we were able to gain hands on experience performing carapace (shell) measurements, egg counts and nest relocation.

As a Research Assistant, I took part in variety of tasks, including leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research and community outreach programmes. My work in the communities included school turtle watching field trips, educational sessions with children at local schools, as well as participating with communities in the Climate Walk and Ocean’s Day Walk. Together with other volunteers, we had a chance to nurture children’s genuine interest and encourage these future stewards of Grenada to act responsibly with regards to the environment. It was a very rewarding experience being able to educate communities and raise awareness of environmental issues.

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The cultural differences between the Caribbean and Western cultures made this experience an education for me too. I had the opportunity to visit local factories and plantations, and I tried local cuisine including the national dish called Oil Down (pronounced ile dung).

I worked within a group of volunteers from different countries and I have made friends for life. A few months after returning from Grenada, I was lucky to fly to the Netherlands for a reunion. This summer I am looking forward to hosting a fellow volunteer in Manchester.

Taking part in volunteering abroad has also been a great way to develop new skills and knowledge, as well as boosting my CV. In a competitive job market, prospective employers want to see what makes you different from all the other candidates, and I believe volunteering is a great way of standing out from the crowd. In my own experience, this has been proven, when I secured the role of a Student & Employer Engagement Intern at Manchester Met, I received following feedback from one of the members of the interview panel:

“When shortlisting candidates for our Student and Employer Engagement Intern position, we were looking for someone who had work and life experience outside of their studies. Magda’s volunteering experience overseas really made us notice her application as it demonstrated her independence and range of transferable skills. During the interview process, Magda used her volunteering experience throughout questioning as evidence of her ability to meet our criteria. Volunteering is a great way of gaining valuable experience which can make candidates stand out when applying for jobs even if it isn’t directly relevant to the role.”

I count myself lucky that I encountered the closest thing we have to the last living dinosaur, and to know that I was able to be of some help to protect the endangered leatherback sea turtle is a fantastic feeling that has stayed with me. Moreover, through this volunteering experience I have gained more benefits that I would have ever imagined. Developing new skills and knowledge, exploring a different country, as well as making new friends seems like a lot to gain in exchange for contributing your free time.

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My advice to you

People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community, make a difference to other people’s lives or to the environment. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.

Whatever your interest and motivation and whether you are thinking of volunteering in the UK or abroad, there will be a volunteering opportunity right for you. I advise everyone to try volunteering, as you will give a little but gain a lot!

 

If you are considering volunteering in the UK or overseas we can help! Come along to our daily drop-in, 1pm – 4pm in the Employability Hub, Business School Building for initial advice, check out our guide to working abroad or find volunteering opportunities through the Students’ Union

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