Getting as much as you give

September 21, 2017

Volunteering helps students bridge the gap between theory and practice


Just over a year ago, I was part of a week-long program where I lived in a house beside the Mustard Seed, learned about the struggles that individuals faced in the community and volunteered there for a week. One day, we were kicked out as if we were homeless. We didn’t have our phones. We didn’t have watches. We didn’t have resources. We stood in line for meals. That experience challenged me, pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and helped me understand who I am and what I want to do with my career. It taught me empathy and interpersonal skills. It showed me how to see the potential of people and the importance of meeting them where they’re at.

There’s so much value in learning that happens outside of the classroom. Volunteering is like a bridge that lets you take the theories and background knowledge you learn in class and apply it in the real world. The reason I'm a human resources major is because I love working with people and finding sustainable, practical ways to empower them. And the experiences I’ve had volunteering helped me develop the skillsets I need to do that.

That week at the Mustard Seed was life-changing, but smaller volunteer experiences are important too. When I was the membership coordinator of the MacEwan Human Resources Club, I volunteered as a greeter for an HR panel event. I built my professional network that day, I still connect with the people I met there, and it’s led to several job opportunities that I otherwise would never have had.

My best advice? Start volunteering early. I volunteered pretty consistently when I was younger, but for my first few years of university it felt like I just didn’t have enough time to fit it in. When I started volunteering as a university student, it felt good. I was making a difference and giving back to my community. And I gained so much too. Organizations want to meet students, they want to invest in us, and they can help us learn so much about ourselves and what we want to do in the future.

—Yentle Ng, Human Resources major, Bachelor of Commerce, and Career Development Assistant in MacEwan’s Career Development and Experiential Learning office

Didn’t get the chance to stop by the Get Involved Volunteer Fair? It’s not too late to get involved. Here are some ways our students are reaching out and stepping up in big ways and small:

Volunteer for MacEwan’s Open House

THUMB_VOLUNTEER_MirandaI love talking to students at Open House—it's my favourite. They're in high school and though their parents usually ask the questions, I always reply to the students with "but what do you want to know?” I know they have a lot of questions and it’s really cool to talk to them.

I started as a volunteer at New Student Orientation and Open House and definitely benefitted from getting involved outside the classroom in both big and small ways—you don't have to start by being president of a club.

—Miranda Witham, Bachelor of Arts alumna

Learn more about volunteering for Open House.

Be a Fit Buddy

THUMB_FIT_BUDDYI was a bit nervous the first time I volunteered to be a Fit Buddy, but I wasn’t the only one. The first thing one of my fit buddies said to me was that he was so intimidated about not knowing where to go or what to do in the gym that he had never even walked through the turnstiles before.

After a few minutes we both realized we were helping each other out. For me, Fit Buddy is a lot of fun, a good way to make sure I get to the gym and a chance for me to meet people in different programs... Read more

—Lauren, Bachelor of Physical Education Transfer student

Sign up to be a Fit Buddy.

Talk to SAMU


Being a student is stressful enough—I can’t imagine worrying about where you're going to get your next meal from on top of that. You just never know what someone might be going through. They could be doing fine and managing one moment, and then something happens and suddenly they’re not. 

The SAMU Student Food Bank helps take some of the pressure off. Students need to eat properly to be able to function, focus and learn, so our food bank hampers come with a lot of food—not just enough for a day or two, but nutritious food that can last students up to a week. And we offer vegan, vegetarian and even special-request hampers so that anyone who needs help can get it… Read more

—Stephanie, Bachelor of Arts student and volunteer with the SAMU Student Food Bank

Check out SAMU’s volunteer opportunities.

More stories about our students stepping up:


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