There’s no ‘i’ in college – Why you should volunteer

“College is all about discovering who you are, and what you want out of life.” I’ve heard variations of this phrase countless times – I’ve been told everything from “college is a time to have fun,” to “college is the best time of your life.” Most words I’ve heard in conjunction with college have been, to put it honestly, quite selfish. Most advice given to me has been about discovering what I like, who I want to be, what my future should look like. There’s no “I” in college (or in volunteer,) but from what I’ve heard, there may as well be.

That’s what lead me to the greatest discovery of my college career: volunteering. Sure, you may have volunteered in high school, or you might have been in the National Honor Society – but once you’re in college, the idea of service has a completely different meaning. Volunteering as you get older is no longer about the hours on a community service sheet, the service required to remain in good standing in a club or organization, or even an activity that is mandated by your parents. Volunteering and service in college is a completely independent experience that is dictated by you and for you.

When I began my first semester at the University of Florida (UF), I felt my educational experience was lacking. Yes, I had wonderful teachers, and friends who made my school a home away from home – but I still felt empty. The more I dwelled on the feeling, the more I realized I was missing the personal joy I had once felt volunteering in high school. There’s something to be said about dedicating your time to others – it’s a completely personal, free, life-changing experience. The ability to simply do good and make an impact makes me excited. Who says service and fun can’t go hand in hand? Who says college can’t be a great time in your life, because of the time you spend giving back to others?Showing off the results of her volunteer efforts

My most meaningful service opportunity has been my involvement with Dance Marathon. Dance Marathon at the University of Florida is a 26.2-hour event, where over 800 UF students stand and raise money for those who can’t, at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The money UF students fundraise while standing, and throughout the year, all goes to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. This past year, Dance Marathon at the University of Florida was able to fundraise more than 2.4 million dollars for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. That was an incredible sum of money, raised by students, for incredible, and deserving families.

I’m fortunate enough to live less than a few minutes away from the hospital, and can see first-hand, the impact college students have on these children and families. The money raised goes to making the hospital a stress-free, comforting environment. To brightly decorated, undersea themed hallways, to Child Life Specialists who walk children through their hospital procedures using Teddy Bears – I’ve come to realize there’s no dollar too small to make a difference.

Service comes in all shapes and sizes – whether you find your niche through fundraising or through hands-on mentoring, park clean up – anything you can imagine. I encourage you to volunteer during your college career. There’s no other time in your life where you will be able to fully commit yourself to a cause you believe in and simply “dive in.” Volunteering has demonstrated to me the importance of perspective and given me a type of self-satisfaction no social media post or night out with friends could give.

Haley_VolunteerProfileImageHaley currently attends the University of Florida. She dreams of becoming an occupational therapist and working with our nation’s veterans.