Student and volunteer: driven by interest, a thirst for learning and growth

01 March 2022 |

Volunteers take pleasure in doing things for others in addition to their day-to-day activities. Aicha, Leonie and Fien combine voluntary work with their studies. Although each of them got into it in a different way, they agree on one thing: the added value of volunteering.

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Leonie: “I find volunteering as a student almost essential.” 

Since this academic year, Leonie has been working behind the scenes at GUM (Ghent University Museum): “I am part of the Museum Student Team (MuST for short). I’m also a guide and I supervise workshops.
 
I studied medicine, but before I start specializing, I want to discover a different side of myself. That is why I am taking the Master's in Gender and Diversity this academic year. There is a duality in me that I also find in GUM. What’s so special about GUM is its search for the meeting points between the scientific and the unknown. The way the two are inherently connected and how they relate to art and society. 

I will soon be guiding the new Phallus exhibition, where artists and scientists enter into dialogue about the male member. An expo that completely connects to my two fields of study. Thanks to GUM, I can interact with other people about something that is my passion. That’s enormously enriching and instructive.
 
I find volunteering as a student almost essential. Your education prepares you for your professional career, but at school you don't get to know society. By standing in society as a student and by broadening your horizons through volunteer work, you learn what it is like to get closer to people. That’s something every student can learn a lot from.”

Fien: “I can combine my interests as a volunteer.” 

Geology student Fien has been workgroup leader for the Gentsters, the youth work of the Ghent Observatory Armand Pien, for a year now: “Twice a month we organize a meeting on a Saturday, and there is also a five-part youth course offered for beginners. My job is mainly to help coordinate everything. We are also the Ghent branch of the JVS, the youngsters' association for astronomy. I’m a member of the staff there.

Even before my studies at Ghent University, I ended up at the observatory by chance. Astronomy has been my biggest passion since I was fifteen (laughs).
 
I decided to study geology and not astronomy, because I had other, somewhat broader interests. But astrogeology (planetary geology) interests me enormously. Thanks to my voluntary work, I can combine these interests. It's a hugely enriching experience.”

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Aicha: “I put theory into practice here, without consciously learning.”

As well as being a Master's student in Educational Sciences and Pedagogy, Aicha is also a volunteer at Uilenspel: “For one hour a week, I give homework support in a playful way to a third-grade pupil at home. During that hour, we work on school-based basic skills and motivation.
 
My assignment at Uilenspel fits in nicely with my studies, which makes it a very instructive experience. I put theory into practice here, without consciously learning. I must admit that I underestimated the amount of time I would need. The coaching session takes an hour, but preparation takes a lot more time. 

I started working at Uilenspel during the first lockdown. My role as a volunteer helped me get through the corona crisis. I had a hard time with the sudden lack of structure. Through Uilenspel, I found myself in the very structured world of education, which was what I needed at the time. What’s more, before doing this voluntary work, I was uncertain about what would come after my studies. Now I feel strengthened because I know more about what to expect.”

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