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In our latest in the Volunteer Voices series, Jo Fitzpatrick writes about their experience as part of the Welcome Team during Freshers
I’m going to be completely honest - I was tentative about volunteering as part of the welcome team. The main reason I joined was that I missed the sense of community and achievement that volunteering could bring after doing so much of it throughout secondary school. I signed up, hoping to meet some people and help others, but I was still reluctant. I didn’t feel like I had experienced enough of university life myself to be able to welcome anyone else into it. In my first year at Strathclyde, I wasn’t on campus for classes all that much and I still didn’t really know my way around. Also, I had been too nervous to try out lots of clubs and societies during my own Freshers week. Basically, I felt that I was the one needing the welcome and didn’t believe I would be of any use at all.
As a welcome teamer, we were given all the information possibly needed to help students feel comfortable and confident as they settle into their studies. We learnt about all of the support services that the University has available and different points of contact for them, which is always helpful information to have as a current student as well as a new one. Also, I learnt a lot about the history of Strathclyde as an Institution, which I personally found interesting as a humanities student. On an equally important note, I got so much insight into the inner workings of the Strathclyde Student’s Union and I had the privilege of speaking to so many of the lovely staff that work there. Walking around campus now, and seeing lots of familiar, friendly faces in staff, other students and the wonderful welcome team leaders who I otherwise wouldn’t have met is an amazing feeling that I didn’t think possible to experience at University due to its size. But it is, and I feel so much happier and at home because of it.
On a more practical level: I got to know campus incredibly well during this time both from being walked through a campus tour but also from running about the place for ten days straight! Did you know that the Livingston tower is featured in the background of movies like ‘World War Z’ and also the video game ‘Transport Tycoon’? I didn’t, but I do now! And I could tell you lots of interesting facts about a good few of the buildings on our campus that I haven’t even set foot in. It is a very niche talent, but I love it!
Through this opportunity, I learnt a lot. About the University of course, but also about myself. I came to realise that, when I have the support of those around me, I really am willing to try anything and my ability to speak both to, and in front of people, improved greatly. Whether it be running speed meetings; leading campus tours (with a megaphone!) or approaching anyone and everyone asking if they would like a goodie bag, I did it with a smile when all of the above sounded like my idea of hell only a few days prior. I gained confidence, muscles from moving lots of furniture and arguably most importantly, a pink t-shirt.
Looking back on my time in the Welcome team, I wouldn’t change a single part about it. I have so many amazing memories from that week and look back fondly on some experiences that I will probably never have again. Like helping to put up a massive inflatable duck. Or watching a human-sized game of hungry hippos. I would go as far as to say that although I am already a year into my degree, my life as a student at Strathclyde started this September as a volunteer.
From this whirlwind of an experience, I am left feeling proud to have been part of welcoming incoming students as they start their studies at such an incredible university. I can safely say that volunteering as part of the welcome team was one of the best decisions I have made, and I am exceptionally thankful for the opportunity to meet so many awesome people. To anyone considering getting involved with the welcome team next year, or volunteering in general: DO IT! The only downside I have found is that I never want to look at another tote bag, or duck…until next year!