Want to make meaningful social change without leaving the comfort of home?
Students in ISEP’s Barcelona Virtual Service Learning Program (BVSL) volunteer at nonprofits in Barcelona addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges: poverty, climate change, racial inequality, food insecurity, and access to education.
We asked three program participants, Sharon, Ariana and Shisla, to share with us their biggest take-aways from their experience. Here’s six reasons why they think you should consider volunteering in Barcelona:
“I would recommend the program to anyone looking for an enriching international experience from the comfort of your own home. A combination of intercultural interaction, self-development and charitable giving - what’s not to love!”
– Ariana Hond, University of Auckland
1. Become a stronger communicator
BVSL volunteers become stronger communicators through not only communicating with Barcelona locals at their volunteer sites but through seminars on cross-cultural communication throughout the program.
Shisla: “Cross-culturally, I have learned about my own generalizations, and that each person is an individual, not just a culture. This has allowed me to have more meaningful conversations and relations with others.”
Ariana: “During the program I learnt more about my own communication style and used strategies to adapt this style to work harmoniously with others.”
Sharon: “Professionally, I can change my communication style to suit whoever I am talking to. This will be an invaluable skill to have in the business industry because one of my key jobs will be to communicate and negotiate with people from different backgrounds.”
2. Make your resume pop!
Stand out from the crowd with a unique work experience volunteering at an international service-organization based in Barcelona, Spain. ISEP students gain or sharpen in-demand skills including fundraising, marketing, graphic design, website development, and social media management.
Ariana: “My tasks with Melting Pot were to assist with the redevelopment of their website, analyze their social media and do some market research into how similar organizations were operating during Covid. I was able to work with a lot of creative freedom, while still collaborating and checking in with the directors.”
3. Let your creativity and flexibility shine
Being creative and flexible are important skills every employer looks for, especially nonprofit organizations. The pandemic has forced nonprofits to rethink their strategies and find new approaches to reach in-need populations. Program participant got hands-on experience confronting these challenges.
Sharon: “The most challenging part was finding an efficient way to fundraise despite COVID-19. COVID-19 limited some of the fundraising ideas I had, and I knew I had to overcome this by being more creative.”
Shisla: “I can consciously adapt my style with other people. Before this program, I was never so self-aware of the way I communicate to others.”
4. Gain self-confidence
When you take a leap outside of your comfort zone, you learn how capable and strong you really are. BVSL volunteers took that leap, adjusting to not only a new work environment, but the added challenges of working remotely in an entirely new culture. They came out of the experience with new skills and greater confidence.
Sharon: “I gained self-confidence from the fact my supervisors relied on me to create a fundraiser for orphans and I knew that in order to create a successful fundraiser, I had to know what I was doing and do it efficiently. This success has caused me to believe in myself more than ever before.”
Shisla: “Having become aware of different norms in a professional environment, I feel I can be more successful in different interactions and situations.”
5. Connect with Barcelona locals
During the pandemic, many of us have felt our social circles shrink. Barcelona service-learning participants, on the other hand, expanded their circles — gaining new colleagues and friends on the other side of the globe.
Ariana: “Through this program I was able to connect with people on the other side of the world without leaving my desk. Although virtual experiences cannot fully replace real life immersion in a new culture or country, programs like this are the next best thing!”
6. Make a difference
BVSL volunteers are driven by a desire to advance social causes and help communities in need. Program participants felt they were doing meaningful work and contributing to making the world a better place.
Sharon: “Knowing I contributed to helping orphans get their basic necessities is a heart-warming feeling. Growing up with food, water and shelter over my head while knowing there are many children who don’t have what I have made me feel helpless so knowing I did something to help them makes me feel better.”
Ariana: “The best part of the experience was simply being able to support a wonderful organization doing fantastic things in their community…while we may not be living in a totally mobile and usual world, we are still able to create and produce tangible change within our community.”
We asked the BVSL participants to share some final words of advice to future program participants:
Ariana: “I recommend applying to work with an organization that is doing work that really interests you. Both you and the organization will get more from the collaboration if you are equally as supportive of their goal.”
Sharon: “Listen attentively to the seminars and take notes as they are very useful in developing your professional skills. Getting to know other students and what they are doing in the program is also a good way to learn about the differences in culture as well. Lastly and most importantly, enjoy and make the most of every moment in the program as your time with the program will go very quickly.”
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