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