It’s already intimidating to worry about doing well in our classes – not to mention keeping your sanity during a pandemic - but to also stress about having all the experience and qualifications that employers are looking for, wow. But what if you could do both at once? What if a volunteering experience led you down a career path you’ve never even thought of? What if it also provided a chance to make active change in the francophone community? Now that’s a win-win.
Making a difference, in French
Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Author: Samantha Perry, student in communication and theatre
“Don’t discredit volunteering; you would also be surprised at how many employers don’t discredit it either!”. Shelby Mayer is a fourth year ‘Enseignement des langues secondes’ student currently volunteering with Canadian Parents for French (CPF). For her, community engagement is invaluable.
As a future French teacher, she works with CPF to gain hands-on skills that make her stand out in her workforce, in a position that otherwise wouldn’t exist as a paid role. Having French as a second language herself, she tutors younger students learning the language and is granted the flexibility to set her own schedule. This allows her to continue tutoring while still maintaining her work and studies.
Also, through the Community Service Learning (CSL) program offered in her course, she can directly apply what she learns to help her students improve: “too often, resources are offered in English, but not in French. I feel that by volunteering within the francophone community specifically, I am adding to and expanding upon the services offered to French-speaking persons”. There are opportunities that will benefit your career goals too, if you only know where to look!
Rougui Bah received a bachelor’s in sociology with a minor in social work in 2019. She is currently completing a master’s in sociology at the University of Ottawa. During her studies, she has volunteered as part of a course and done extracurricular volunteering as well. Rougui says that her experience with the Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario really paved the way for her current government job.
As part of her placement, she developed key competencies in research and statistics and worked on her flexibility and networking skills, which has enriched her career path. She also developed an interest in politics, since the AFO is involved in discussions on implementation of provincial policies related to francophones. She describes her volunteer experiences as among those with the greatest impact on her academic career, since she has met wonderful people and built herself a professional network.
Finally, Her advice to students is to show initiative, openness and enthusiasm when it comes to volunteer opportunities offered by the Community Service Learning team and, especially, to get involved in the process.
Erin Woods, a 2018 graduate from uOttawa’s political science program, credits her CSL placement as a “very long interview period” for her current job. After volunteering with the Liberal party in 2015, her time with ‘on the ground’ politics drove her to pursue a career in Canadian government. In 2018 she volunteered with Mathieu Fleury on his 2018 re-election campaign and made such a good impression that she was hired as a Community Liaison after graduation.
Having come to Ottawa to be immersed in the French language, the opportunity to work with a Francophone municipal Councillor who represented a large Francophone community was an excellent experience. Not only did she learn more about the vibrant francophone communities that surrounded her, but she was also able to apply her studies in political science while increasing her comfort speaking and working with others in French. Erin stated: “[the] connections and relationships I made within the community during my placement, both personally and professionally, have been extremely beneficial and will continue to be as I continue in my career”.
She encourages anyone considering a placement to take the leap; the benefits to you and your community are endless!