What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up?

How many of us can say that we knew from a young age what it is that we wanted to grow up to be? How many of us have wanted to become lawyers at 14 years of age and actually became lawyers by 25? Some of us, yes, but for most of us it doesn’t always pen out that way. I can remember my sister wanting to become a doctor since she was in high school. And today I can proudly say that she is about to start medical school this January. Unfortunately for me, knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life didn’t come as easily.

I started at Concordia University in September of 2011 as an Independent student. Being an Independent student allows you to “test the waters”, it allows you to try out different courses and see what your likes and dislikes are. I tried literally everything, from night grueling math classes, to marketing courses, to biology – really, I tried it all. I also started volunteering for the first time in my life, because honestly, I don’t really count Christmas caroling when I was 8 years old as an appropriate volunteer experience to put on my CV. This experience was different, it was a project organized by Concordia called ASB, or Alternative Spring Break, which allows students to choose a location such as Montreal, the Laurentian’s, or New Orleans, and leave for a week to do volunteer work. So I left for New Orleans in February with a group of students to work in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the homes of those who lost theirs to hurricane Katrina in 2005. And, as cliché as it may sound, that was really the week that I knew that I wanted to be in the social work field. I wanted to help people achieve their true potential. It just fit, like a key in a lock and just like that I knew what field I wanted to study in and how I wanted to align myself in terms of career goals and aspirations. Coming back from this trip I immediately applied into the Human Relations program at Concordia. I started getting more and more passionate about helping others and took on more volunteer work such as volunteering at the Tyndale St-Georges Community Centre which is a centre who’s goals is to empower the community of Little Burgundy by offering programs for both parents and children alike. My time spent volunteering was focused on the children’s summer camp program as well as helping tutor the children in their after-school program in September.

By the time I was nearing my final year in University I started volunteering at Face a Face. This was by far the best learning opportunity that I ever could have dreamed of. I got to work with a wide variety of wonderful clients from whom I have been able to learn from. Those clients have made an impact in my life and I hope more than anything that they can say that I have done the same for them. I am currently doing my summer stage at Face a Face and will be graduating from Concordia with my bachelor’s this upcoming December. Volunteering has changed who I am for the better. It has given me the opportunity to learn, and grow, and it has given me a purpose and direction for my life. I look forward to the future and I am eager to take all the amazing things that I have learnt from volunteering and from school into my career. And to all those of you who still haven’t figured out your life’s purpose – don’t worry too much. Because in the end it always works out the way it’s supposed to be. And volunteering in your community is also an amazing way to figure out what you want to do; I can definitely say that it worked out for me.

Stephanie Underwood

How Volunteering Helped Me Get into Master’s

Some people are born knowing what they want to do when they grow up. I however, was not one of them. I had no idea what I wanted, all I knew was that I had a desire to help people. When I graduated CEGEP, I applied and got accepted into a Bachelor of Psychology. I loved it. I worked extremely hard in my classes and I volunteered in research labs. I was so inspired that I truly believed I was going to be the best psychologist in Montreal.

I graduated with distinction, applied for a Master’s in the Counseling and Educational Psychology program, and life was good. Then I got terrible news: my Master’s application was rejected. Once again, I was lost and had no idea what to do with myself. I had a whole year that was officially empty and I decided I would use this time to figure out what I want.
Then something interesting happened, two completely unrelated individuals in my life recommended that I build my CV during this year off by volunteering at a community organization. I didn’t know much about where to volunteer so I started looking on the volunteer bureau of Montreal website.

I found an organization called Face à Face (aka. FaF) that interested me for two reasons: first, FaF mostly works with adults and since I had only worked with youth, it would be an opportunity to expand my experience. Second, there was some psychology subject overlap and it would give me a chance to practice. I decided to give it a try. I applied, got accepted, and two years later I’m still here.

A lot has changed in those two years and FaF and other community organizations have been with me every step of the way. During my year off I volunteered at FaF twice a week, worked, and volunteered at another community organization tutoring troubled youth. The best part of my week was volunteering. Not only do you feel good for helping others but you also build lasting connections with individuals working in the community. Once again I was inspired and I knew that volunteering at community organizations helped me figure out who I really am. I met some wonderful people and made some lifelong friendships. I also gained valuable interpersonal skills.

I re-affirmed that I want to work with vulnerable people and make a difference in people’s lives. Through my volunteer work and my interest in youth, I came to believe that the best way for me to implement change starts when individuals are young through the education system. Based on this inspiration I applied for Master’s again. This time, I applied in a project concentration and proposed a project based in schools to help transition age youth in vulnerable situations. I also asked for a letter of recommendation from my volunteer supervisors and they both agreed. A couple months later, I got into Master’s! Around that time, I also got offered a job at FaF that I gladly accepted.

Now I have finished my first year of Master’s, I’m living in my own condo, and I’m working at FaF full time this summer. Through volunteering at two organizations, I came to learn about others that were also impacting the Montreal community. There are numerous projects happening all over the city by the numerous organizations that continue to help people every day.

In the end, volunteering not only allowed me to change other people’s lives, but it also gave me the drive and support to change my own.

Charlie Ohayon