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My Volunteering Experience Over Winter Break

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be challenging, but it helps you put some aspects of your life into perspective when you do so

Winter break can be gloomy because the weather isn’t great to go outside and do something fun. That’s when I had the idea to volunteer somewhere since it would provide me an experience outside of my comfort zone, I’d also be something good. I searched online to find a place to volunteer near my house, and I stumbled upon a senior living and memory care facility. Initially, I was pretty hesitant, but I emailed the volunteer coordinator and set up a time to meet with her and tour the facility. 

When I visited, I was very nervous because, as a volunteer, my responsibility was to interact and engage with the residents so their morale stayed high and their health didn’t decline. I expressed my concern to the volunteer coordinator because I wasn’t sure if I would keep the residents engaged. More than anything, I was scared to mess up. She assured me that I would do just fine if I’m patient and compassionate. Although this wasn’t comforting, I agreed and started a week later.

The first week was the hardest since I was trying to acclimate myself to the environment and new people. However, the kindness and welcoming sentiment the residents and staff displayed made it much easier for me to engage in more conversation and become more comfortable in that environment.

I met many residents and had plenty of conversations with them about where they used to work, their college days and their hobbies. I learned more about them and found ways to connect with them by doing this. I shared many stories about myself, which they also enjoyed listening to because it gave them a way to talk about their experiences in college. In addition, they loved playing board games, bingo and making arts and crafts, which I also enjoy doing! This gave me another avenue to connect with the residents.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the residents, it was sad when they would tell me the same stories repeatedly because they couldn’t remember what they had already told me. However, I found joy when I saw that they shared the same story with the same emotion each time. The wording would be different, but the genuine happiness or sadness their story brought would remain the same. I found this incredibly fascinating, and at the same time extremely sad. The first few times this happened, I remember I was taken aback a little bit because of how naturally they brought up the same story as if this was the first time I was hearing it. This experience changed my perspective on how I look at experiences in my own life; I’ve realized that emotions are what essentially resonate with a person more than the story itself. I took this as the most valuable lesson I learned while volunteering which made me realize the value of my emotions and the emotions of others in any given situation.

Overall, I’m really happy I stepped outside of my comfort zone to volunteer at this senior living and memory unit. I thoroughly enjoyed making connections with the residents. As I reflect on my experience, I agree that having patience and compassion are the most important traits when working in an environment where people need a little extra love and attention. I’m planning on going back in the summer to volunteer because of how great of an experience it was!

Hareem Rauf

Wisconsin '25

I'm a sophomore at UW Madison studying Economics.