Volunteering isn’t always outreach

Generally when grad students talk about volunteering, it involves outreach of some type. This could be helping out with a K-12 science fair or giving a talk to visiting students. It can be giving tours of the department or standing at a booth advertising the university.

However, sometimes volunteering can be isolated to within your department. It can only effect current students, and only a few. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

I spent about six hours yesterday volunteering. I’m helping determine some award winners for an internal competition based on projects created over the last couple of semesters within an undergrad class. In order to do so, I have to go through their work. And examine it. And compare them. And try not to get frustrated, by reminding myself that many of the students were first and second years, and that all the students (likely) tried their best. (Let’s be honest, there’s almost never a class where everyone actually tries their best.)

And even though I spent six hours on this, I’m still not done. I have a meeting next week, where I meet with the other judges (volunteers) and we settle on the winners. My calendar says this is going to take an hour. My brain tells me it’ll likely be closer to two. And then after that, I need to attend the award ceremony, since it’ll look bad if I don’t.

Yesterday was tough. It was a struggle to keep going, and I almost stopped partway through to come back another day. But, knowing how tough it was, I also knew that I wasn’t really going to want to come back another day, and that it was better it just get through it. And, now that it’s over, I’m really glad I did.

But, while this has been tough, and a lot of me has been wondering why I even agreed to this in the first place, I’m looking forward to the judges meeting. I like debating, and I already know that myself and one other judge have very different views on a couple of the projects. So it should be interesting. Which means, even if it goes for two hours, it’ll likely be one of those meetings where you never glance at a clock and are surprised how much time has gone by.

I’m generally sick of volunteering, even though I feel like I’ve done very little of it recently. But, I have to say, if I’m going to, this was actually a lot easier than previous experiences. Even though it was more taxing mentally, I could do some of it on my own time, and the schedule was very clear from the start, along with what I’m doing and about how much time I should expect it to take. If more volunteer opportunities were like this, maybe I’d actually sign up more often.


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