Read on to find out how Teresa Su, a first-year BSc Theoretical Physics student, found her experience with Off the Curriculum!

Tell us a little about your volunteering:

I am volunteering for Off the Curriculum (OTC), which is an educational charity focused on inspiring young people. As a student volunteer (with an astrophysics focus), I have produced a video series on various astronomy topics and helped run online seminars. In terms of the video series, I spent some time over the Christmas break writing up scripts for 5 lessons and delivered them on camera during the term. I found the process really enjoyable and rewarding, so I asked the organiser for more areas where I could help out, and now I am part of the videography team, which edits videos produced by other volunteers.

How did you find out about the role?

I found out about the role on the UCL Volunteering website- a very good place to find open positions at various organisations. I just filtered for science-related volunteering experiences and came across OTC.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

I initially wanted to be a volunteer because I wanted to do something other than just study Physics. As much as I love Physics, there is a really systematic and rigid approach to learning the subject, which doesn't really improve my transferrable skills (or so-called soft skills). So, I wanted an opportunity to grow in those non-technical areas, and volunteering is undoubtedly one of the best ways to do so. Also, I wanted to volunteer for an education charity because I had experiences working and engaging with young people that I really enjoyed and would like to do more of. Volunteering is just an incredibly rewarding experience that is worth doing.

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

I feel like I have introduced some niche parts of astrophysics to a wider audience. This feels quite incredible as mainstream media tends to only focus on the Big Bang or black holes, neglecting other important areas of research that goes on in astrophysics (such as probing planetary interiors).

What impact has volunteering had on you?

In the process of producing the video series, I actually learned many new and interesting things in astronomy, especially regarding space exploration. I also feel really fulfilled to have helped high school students to explore their interested subjects. After becoming part of the videography team, I learned to use professional video editing software to colour grade and polish videos.

What’s the best thing about volunteering?

I think the best thing is that it's always a win-win situation where I simultaneously make a positive influence on other people's lives whilst improving on myself.

And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges?

Speaking to a camera for 5 whole minutes was really challenging for me, so I was quite nervous about delivering the scripts. Before my first recording session, I had to tell myself to go in and just do it. Luckily, the organiser was really kind and created a very casual atmosphere that made me feel relaxed and at ease. By the end of the first script, my confidence had already grown substantially.

Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering

We wanted the videos to capture different views of London, so we filmed around London, which was really fun for me as an international student. The most memorable location would probably be the graffiti tunnel near Waterloo station. It just gave such a cool background and vibe to the video. But it was also memorably partly because there was so much traffic around the area that interfered with the audio, so I had to repeat many parts of the script ;)

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why?

Absolutely! Besides making a difference in other people's lives, such as inspiring them to study STEM at university, it is in itself an incredibly rewarding experience where you can learn and grow so much.