From in-person to online volunteering- Chun Lam has tested both out! Read on to find out more about his experience.

Tell us a little about your volunteering

I started volunteering with Coachbright last September as an A-level Math Tutor. Every Thursday afternoon, I held 1.5 hour-long sessions. There was a lot of flexibility in terms of timing.

To get everyone talking, we had an icebreaker social for the first session with all the other tutors and tutees. This was really interesting since I got to interact with tutors who were studying in different universities. During each tutoring session, I try to figure out what my tutee needs help with and set goals accordingly. I drew on my A-level experience and it was fun to be on the other side of things and be the one to assign homework. I made the tutee work out questions in front of me so I could figure out where exactly they were spending too much time and struggling.

I did this for 1 term and then started volunteering online with Action Tutoring. This time it was with 2 students studying GSCE. The organisation would provide practice books and had a platform of their own which we used during the sessions. I received the materials for each session beforehand to prepare. The online platform was really good since we could track time and progress for the tutees.

How did you find out about the role?

I have always wanted to do some volunteering in London but was unsure of which organisations were reliable. That’s when I saw the email about the Volunteering Fairs at UCL. I got the chance to speak to a lot of organisations during the Tutoring and Mentoring Fair and applied for these 2 roles. I felt comfortable knowing these organisations were checked and verified by the UCL Volunteering Service. The process from then on was pretty straightforward.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

I knew what it felt like to volunteer and help others out! Since I had some time during the term, I wanted to put it to good use and so volunteering felt like the natural choice.

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

I was in a role that allowed me to see direct progress in my tutee’s performance in CoachBright. By regularly doing papers, I could figure out the gaps and change my approach to help them. While redoing papers, it was always great to see the tutees solve questions that they couldn’t before. Even if they don’t get the full solution, I could see how their approach to a problem has improved.

With Action Tutoring, it was all online. I followed the PPT we were given and made them solve online practice questions. I found this slightly more challenging since I could not see what they were doing while solving the questions. This was to ensure they were comfortable doing the exercises since there were 2 tutees at a time.

What impact has volunteering had on you?

I was definitely able to improve on my organisation skills. I would have to plan out each session, make sure I time everything so that we don’t overrun and leave time to summarise at the end. I had to follow this procedure and make sure to complete what I set out for each session.

It also helps me break up my week and brings structure to my schedule.

What’s the best thing about volunteering? 

Helping others! That is the main reason why I volunteer. Overall, it leads to a good experience for everyone involved. Since I have done my A-levels and GSCEs, it was easy to share advice and personal support. I was able to give them tips on all the bits that schools may not teach you about staying motivated and releasing stress.

I also got the chance to meet students from other universities which was a great experience.

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

Math as a subject can be difficult. For each question, you need to figure out the main idea behind solving it- sort of like a riddle. It is hard to teach this the trick. So entering such a role, I knew I had to improve my skills in explaining. After seeing them solve a question, I see the pattern and understand how to adapt my explanation.

Action Tutoring was harder since I had 2 tutees with different strengths and weaknesses. So I had to make sure I was giving each of them enough support.

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

The first session with CoachBright was very memorable. We had an icebreaker session where we played bingo with a twist! It had people run around and forced us to interact with everyone in the room in a fun way.

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why? 

I would really encourage students (especially first and second years) to undertake some form of volunteering. It is a great way to meet others and improve on ourselves.