People become involved with volunteering for numerous different reasons: the joy of helping others, meeting volunteer requirements for registered student organizations (RSO’s), or because someone in your life is strongly suggesting you get involved. My reason for volunteering transcends these typical motivations.
I grew up in a small town. However, the majority of my family lived in the Chicago area, so when I was younger I traveled to Chicago almost every weekend. Because of my small town roots and constant traveling, I never really had friends outside of school. I was involved with various extracurricular activities, but I never became friends with anyone outside of my school walls. My sense of belonging always resided within my family.
When I received my acceptance letter to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I was thrilled. I couldn’t hold in my excitement, but there was a small part of me that was nervous and scared. As everyone knows, this campus is huge – a bustling metropolitan area with over 42,000 students. Coming from a town of almost 9,000 people, 42,000 students on one campus were intimidating. Since I never shared my concern with others, the idea of all these people in one place continued to both worry and excite me.
Once I got to campus I did what I always do and I got involved. I joined an awesome registered student organization, Latinos in Pre Health, which has greatly benefited me. I am also a part of a scholar program and I applied to be an RA at Presby Hall. In addition to all of those commitments, I volunteered through the university, RSO’s, and programs outside of the university limits. Volunteering now means so much more than it did in grade school and high school. Today, I volunteer to have a sense of belonging. The slogan of the University of Illinois is “iBelong”. The sad thing is, though, that I didn’t feel like I belonged until I started volunteering. I realized that aside from all of the “college fun” that there was an actual community surrounding me. I was a part of a larger community outside of the university. The Champaign-Urbana community became a home away from home for me. I established a new sense of belonging similar to the feeling that I had within my own family. I got to know the people I volunteered with and my feeling of fear went away. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the university is massive and I don’t think I’ll ever see all of it, but I have found my own world through volunteering. I have an established sense of belonging for myself.