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Postgraduate research degrees can get lonely. You spend a great deal of your time working by yourself – reading papers, collecting and analysing data, and so on. Add to this the fact that we are in one of the largest cities in the world, and it’s no surprise that some students find it difficult to develop that feeling of belonging to a community. That is why I started to look for something to do on a regular basis that would be a fun break from long stretches of work. For a year now, I have volunteered every Friday afternoon at the Homework Club for students who learn English as an additional language at Hackney Community College.

The impact on my student experience has been immeasurable and I have been able to pick up some valuable transferable skills, such as language teaching and cross-cultural communication.

Most of the students at the Homework Club arrived in the UK only recently, and for some of them the journey was difficult both emotionally and literally. Being able to show to them that in their new country there are people who are genuinely interested in welcoming them and helping them adjust by overcoming the language barrier is incredibly important. Not to mention how rewarding it is to see the students improve and gain confidence over the year.

That personal aspect of volunteering has meant that, no matter how difficult a week has been – my experiment didn’t work, my code didn’t run or I couldn’t understand a complicated paper – it always ended on a positive note in the Homework Club.

More than anything else, however, volunteering made me appreciate one of the best things about London, and the reason I have always been drawn to this city – its diversity. London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and this is its greatest strength. It saddens me that in the current political climate some people do not see this. This is another reason why I would recommend volunteering. It seems that now more than ever getting involved in our communities, unlocking that fascinating diversity, and connecting with people outside our socio-economic, cultural, and age circles, is the best way forward not only for each of us individually, but for London as a whole, too.

By Maša Vujović, PhD student

If you want to check out how we can help you start volunteering, we’ve got all the info here:…

Or read up on other students’ experiences volunteering in London here:…