Student volunteers from Lancaster University are getting a leg up in the increasingly competitive global jobs market with an international volunteering programme.
This month, 55 Lancaster University students have flown out to two of Lancaster’s partner institutions - GD Goenka World Institute, India and Sunway University in Malaysia - to take part in a scheme which sets out to develop global leaders of the future.
The project is just one part of an international student volunteering programme set up by the Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) Involve – UK’s biggest and most successful university volunteering unit.
It aims to bring together young people from the UK and Lancaster’s international partner institutions to learn about community, business and government as well as gaining cultural understanding to improve their awareness, networks and employability, allowing them to become connected leaders for the future.
The University delivers Lancaster-validated degrees with local institutions in India, Malaysia and Pakistan in subjects including Management, Psychology, Computing and Engineering. The volunteering project taps into this readymade global network to provide a varied, affordable ‘gap year’ type experience within the students’ time at university.
The volunteers are now half way through a packed three-week experience incorporating visits to the Indian Parliament, lectures on local culture, environment, politics and economics which run alongside volunteer projects such as tree planting in areas of deforestation and working with women’s empowerment organisations.
They have also visited the Taj Mahal in Agra, stayed in traditional villages in Malaysia and toured slum dwellings in India.
Earlier this year, as part of the project, young people from India, Malaysia and Pakistan attended an International Summit in London where they were inspired by business leaders from blue chip companies such as IBM, KPMG, Centrica, Accenture and Ernst and Young, as well as MPs and charities. Among the guest speakers was Melody Hossaini from this year’s BBC 1 show The Apprentice with Lord Sugar.
George Gardiner, LUSU President, said: “Many Lancaster University graduates go on to become leaders in business, government and other professions which brings with it a certain level of responsibility.
“This project gives our students a chance to experience other cultures first hand, to open their eyes to the world and give them a sense of being part of a global community – something they will hopefully take with them in their future careers.
“A lot of people go on a gap year to get that kind of awareness but one of the fantastic things about this project is it offers the volunteers so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like visiting the Indian Parliament and finding out about Indian government direct from Indian MPs.”
Third year Sociology Student Emma Slaven is currently in Malaysia. She said: “I originally applied for this trip because I wanted to travel but did not have the confidence to go alone.
“The three weeks have been very intensive but totally worth it. This programme has given me the opportunity to meet people that I would never have had the chance to meet, such as CEO's of big businesses or politicians.
“My highlight of the trip was volunteering at the StART society, which is a children's charity that works with underprivileged children. The few days working with them really put things into perspective for me, for example how much more they appreciate the simple things that we take for granted.
“Hopefully I will keep the things I have learnt with me for a long time to come. I am really glad I have come on this trip and I think it has changed me for the better.”
The Lancaster students have been documenting the highs and lows of their experiences in blogs and videos posted on the LUSUInvolve website. http://involve-international.lusu.co.uk/