When I started the ISEP Virtual Volunteering Program, I wasn’t sure what it would entail. I’ve volunteered before – at charities, with university groups, and even through another internship – but before the pandemic hit, I’d never contemplated the idea of making a difference through an overseas organization, from the comfort of my own bedroom.
However, having now done so, I can wholeheartedly endorse the concept as a rewarding and enriching experience for organizations and volunteers alike, and believe it is an amazing and unique way to gain valuable cross-cultural and professional knowledge. I was lucky enough to volunteer with Oxfam International, working on the new Oxfam Climate Initiative. I am extremely passionate about our environment and sustainability therefore I was elated to receive this position, working for a world-renowned NGO.
At the outset, it was outlined that I would be working on developing the Oxfam Climate Initiative’s Internal Communication Strategies. This involved helping to design and implement a new internal webpage for the initiative, an area I haven’t worked in before, as well as creating a new promotional PowerPoint for external donors. It was awesome learning how to use and edit an NGO’s internal database, while also being able to read about Oxfam’s various endeavors regarding climate change. Once I was experienced with the database, I especially enjoyed being able to give insight to my supervisors on what I thought worked best, and when these ideas were implemented, it felt especially rewarding.
The program also allowed me to gain fantastic cross-cultural communication skills. We had three cross-cultural seminars over the course of the internship, and I was able to implement the knowledge I gained from each of these – such as ideas about the theory behind different cultural values and communication styles – into the context of my internship. Applying this knowledge into real life circumstances was invaluable and has allowed me to take away an essential skill from the experience which I know I will use in life going forward.
For future students participating in this program, I would advise you to take the opportunity with both hands and utilize it as much as possible. It is not often that you will be given the chance to work in a different culture’s workplace from your own home, so make sure to put in as much effort as you can in the knowledge that the hours of work will be greatly appreciated by your organization, as well as being an enriching and valuable experience for you.