Volunteering: a guide for International Students Introduction

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Volunteering: A Guide for International Students


Queen’s Students’ Unions’ mission is to help Queen’s students make the most of their time at Queen’s University. Life at university should be fulfilling and fun. Queen’s Students’ Union will give students first-class support and services; listen and respond to students’ needs and help students to achieve their full potential.

Volunteer SU (the student volunteering unit based within the Student Development Team at Queen’s Students’ Union) believe that providing tailored voluntary opportunities for all students to participate in greatly contributes to Queen’s University Students’ Unions’ mission.

The Value and Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteer SU strives to involve students in valuable volunteering activities to ensure students are empowered, enabled to fulfil their potential and that Queen’s Students’ Union is there for our community, inclusive of all (Queen’s Students’ Union, Strategic Plan 2012-2015).

Volunteering provides opportunity for skills development and work related learning that cannot be achieved from academic studies alone. Volunteering enables students to interact with local residents and organisations, enhancing the student and community relationship as well as aiding students to build their social and professional networks.
Student volunteers positively impact on their community by engaging in local volunteering opportunities and by establishing and delivering their own student-led projects.
Volunteering allows students to challenge themselves by doing something completely different or to stimulate their interests by doing something they are passionate about.
Volunteering locally is also a key avenue for international students to develop their English language skills and improve their knowledge of local culture.
Volunteering also has a secondary effect, the feeling of reward from doing good increases resilience and promotes mental and physical health:

Evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health.’


A pocket guide to helping others,

Mental Health Foundation)

Who is a Student Volunteer?

Volunteering is the commitment of time and energy, for the benefit of society and the community, the environment, or individuals outside one's immediate family. It is undertaken freely and without concern for financial gain.’

(Volunteer Now)

Where a student is committing time and effort for free to benefit others, animals or the environment; they are a student volunteer. This activity can be with an external volunteer involving organisation or internally within Queen’s University and the Students’ Union.

There are a range of positions across Queen’s University and Queen’s Students’ Union which are voluntary (and often students do not recognise their position as volunteering):

- Committee member of a club or society

- Active member of a voluntary/charitable society

- Committee member or active member of RAG

- Course/Class rep

- Member of Student Council

- Homework Club Tutor

- Peer Mentor

- Queen’s Ambassador

- Green Impact Assistant

- International Buddies

- Helping out at Chaplaincies

- STEM Ambassador

- Queen’s Sports Volunteers

- Events Volunteers

The list above is not exhaustive of the volunteering opportunities available at Queen’s and the Students’ Union, but solely to draw attention to some popular positions that a student may be facilitating but not realising they are simultaneously volunteering.

International Student Volunteers

Where a student is from outside the EU or EEA, they should check their visas or entry clearance conditions to make sure that they are allowed to volunteer in addition to studying. Often volunteering is described as ‘unpaid work’ in this type of documentation. Therefore if there is a limit on working hours stated on a student’s visa, for example “Work 20 hours max” or “Work limit 20hrs p/w term time”, this restriction will also apply to volunteering. An international student should ensure they are allowed to volunteer otherwise this could jeopardise their visa status.

Where a student is unsure about their visa regulations, they should seek advice from the International Student Support Team iss@qub.ac.uk

Finding the Perfect Volunteering Opportunity

Volunteer SU will use the following methods to promote current and varied volunteering opportunities:

- http://www.qubsu.org/OpportunitiesSkills/VolunteerSU/Opportunities/

- Volunteer SU E-Newsletter – sign up by contacting volunteer@qub.ac.uk

- Plasma screens in Enterprise SU (on Ground Floor at Queen’s Students’ Union)

- Presence at student networking events e.g. Fresher’s Fair

Students are encouraged to make contact with Volunteer SU to assist them in finding their perfect volunteering opportunity. Volunteer SU can be contacted via the following ways:

- Email: volunteer@qub.ac.uk

- Phone: 028 909 73951

- Web query form: http://www.qubsu.org/Volunteering/Iwanttobecomeavolunteer/Form/

Students are welcome to meet with Volunteer SU staff to explore volunteering options and can request a meeting via email, phone or the web query form.
Volunteer SU act a brokerage service using their contacts to research and assist students in finding their perfect volunteering opportunity.
Students may have a very clear idea of the area that they wish to volunteer in, and if this is the case, students should make this known to Volunteer SU in any contact with them.

Where possible, Volunteer SU will attempt to match all potential student volunteers to their desired area of voluntary activity.

Where a student is unsure about the area in which they would like to volunteer; or are interested in several different activities, Volunteer SU has information on a vast range of volunteering opportunities ranging from one-off events, to the more regular roles that require a commitment of three hours per week. Volunteering opportunities exist on campus across various Queen’s directorates e.g. homework clubs, peer mentoring, international buddies; and off campus with various volunteer involving organisations. Typical areas that may be considered for voluntary activity are:














Ethnic Minorities





Human Rights


Mental Health


Older People




Young People

This list is not exhaustive and there are other voluntary activities which lie outside the areas listed above.
It is possible for students to try out/visit several volunteering opportunities in order to find the right role.
Volunteer SU will also facilitate workshops/information sessions throughout the academic year to promote various student volunteering options.

Examples of Volunteering Opportunities
Homework Clubs

Homework Clubs are supported by Tutors (Queen’s Student Volunteers) who provide homework support to children and young people once a week. These children and young people live in areas of social deprivation and may not necessarily have the opportunity at home to complete their homework which commonly results in underachievement at school, reduced confidence and limited future opportunities. Tutors may work either ‘one to one’ or with a group of children / young people. The student volunteers interact with the children / young people on a social level by engaging in meaningful conversations and by organising recreational activities as well as homework tutoring. The Homework Clubs are a safe environment for school children to attend and they are free of charge.

Belfast Cathedral

Belfast Cathedral require volunteers who can speak English and another language to become tour guides within the Cathedral, enabling tourists visiting the Cathedral to find out information in their first language.

Caring Breaks

Caring Breaks delivers respite breaks for family carers in the Belfast area by providing activities for their adult sons and daughters with a learning disability to participate in during evenings and weekends. Each individual who participates in these activities will be supported to become fully involved in society. Caring Breaks need volunteers to help with the running of these activities and also invite student volunteers with specific skills to lead a project or activity e.g. photography, yoga. They are also extremely keen for international students to host themed nights for their clients, to share some of their culture e.g. traditional dance and food.

Student-Led Volunteering Initiatives

Volunteer SU supports a wide range of student-led projects, from campaigns to voluntary/charity based societies. These projects offer a range of opportunities within the community and the environment. Student-led initiatives provide students with the opportunity to develop skills such as leadership, project planning, teamwork skills and gives them real ownership of individual projects.

Where a student or group of students have a charitable/voluntary idea, Volunteer SU should be used as a point of contact for advice around best practice in setting up their project as well as the continual development of it.

Student Volunteer Recognition

Student volunteers are extremely important and Queen’s Students’ Union makes every effort to ensure student volunteers are recognised and celebrated.

All student volunteers aged 25 and under are eligible for the Millennium Volunteers Award (volunteering certificates backed by Department of Education for 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering). Student volunteers just need to contact Volunteer to get registered and they will then be given access to an online record book. Students are responsible for recording their hours of volunteering on their online record. Certificates will be issued as soon as volunteering hours are verified. For those student volunteers who achieve 200 hours, they will be invited to a gala award ceremony by Volunteer Now.
There are 3 routes to Degree Plus through volunteering:

Route A – 200 hours of Millennium Volunteers and 500 word essay detailing how volunteering has impacted on their personal and professional development.


Route A – 80% attendance of the Inspiring Leaders programme, a reflective journal based on knowledge/skill/value development in relation to the programme content and 50 hours of Millennium Volunteers.


Route B – combined pathway – where a student must participate in at least 2 extra-curricular activities (one could be volunteering) and submit a combined route application on or before 31st March of your year of graduation:

The Cabinet office are seeking nominations for Points of Light which recognises and celebrates individual innovative volunteers of all descriptions across the UK. Volunteer SU aim to nominate innovative student volunteers as and when appropriate.
In June each year, volunteer SU also co-ordinate the Volunteering Excellency Awards – this is a gala award ceremony to recognise and celebrate all the fantastic volunteering efforts of Queen’s students, staff and alumni. Students can nominate themselves or their peers. Internal departments and external organisations can also nominate student volunteers.

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