Beatrix Popa is a second year Electronic and Electrical Engineering student. This year, as part of the UCL Taekwondo Society, she participated in the club’s Student-Led Volunteering Project, Kickstart. Read on to see what it’s like to volunteer regularly as part of a project!

This year, I am volunteering for a project called Kickstart, which was started by the UCL Taekwondo Society. The project involves teaching Taekwondo weekly to students at a Pupil Referral Unit in Wood Green. I'm the captain of Taekwondo society and I was really happy to be the head coach of this volunteering project. Our volunteering officer had been planning the project for a while this year and after going through everything together, we were able to set it up.  The members of Taekwondo society volunteer with me, so there are usually a few people coming along with me for each session - we never have trouble finding people to come, which is great!

The Referral Unit we volunteer at offers young people who do not attend school a form of alternative education, where they receive special attention. The classes can be quite varied depending on who we'll be teaching. First, we have to assess how experienced the pupils are and how many classes they’ve been to. The kids are around 12-14 years old depending on the class and are all of secondary school level. The classes are very small and when we do a session, there will be about five students which is good as you have more contact time with each student. For each session, we make sure to bring kits, paddles and body guards – it is a pretty cool experience since many of the students have not seen or used equipment like this before.

Since I love Taekwondo, this project is just me doing something I enjoy while helping others.

Volunteering so far has been a really nice experience. Initially, I was quite stressed because I had to plan the sessions, but since I’ve been doing Taekwondo for ten years, it actually comes as second nature. It’s fun seeing the kids be so excited about trying new things; the sessions are more interactive than just teaching – I don’t just go in front of them and tell them to do things. I get to ask them how they are, what their experience is with martial arts, then we kick and try out new moves together. It’s really interesting and I enjoy getting to know the kids!

Volunteering offers me really nice break from my studies – it’s just two hours of my time per week, which is manageable. Helping out the kids is a great opportunity to step away from all the lectures that we have, especially since this year was quite busy for me!

For anyone who is considering volunteering, I’d say to definitely do it. Through volunteering, you offer people something that you might take for granted, for example, I can take Taekwondo lessons whenever I want to, but not everyone is in a position where they can. I love doing what I do because being able to offer something (which to you might be a simple thing) can make someone so happy. In turn, I can't help but feel happy also after helping others. You can't really go wrong with volunteering!

If you have a hobby or passion like Beatrix, why not consider turning it into a volunteering project of your own when you return to UCL next academic year? And don't forget to browse opportunities on our directory when you're back!