The OLIve course from the viewpoint of a volunteer

The first thing that surprised us volunteers was the sheer commitment all participants at the OLIve course showed towards the programme. When we arrived at University Square in the mornings, volunteers were usually in the room already and ready to take on the day. Although most participants came from afar (some as far as Birmingham or Cardiff) and hence had much longer journeys than us and although the programme took place on Saturdays and we all know how much we love a lie-in on the weekend, no one ever complained about feeling tired or unmotivated to work.

We all started the day with a casual chat before the participants went to their English classes while the volunteers prepared lunch and set up everything for the afternoon programme. This was a great time for us to get to know the other volunteers as well as the different speakers from both UEL as well as external institutions. Around noon the weekly lecture started about such varied topics as understanding forced migration and refugee narratives or the role of gender in the Middle East. Then we all had lunch and a well-deserved break before the afternoon programme with its academic methods and writing workshops commenced.

Taking part in the OLIve course as a volunteer was a very enriching experience. We benefited from the extensive knowledge of the lecturers and learnt a lot about different cultures. The most rewarding moment was the very last day when it became clear that the participants had not just gained valuable skills and learnt a lot about higher education in the United Kingdom and how to get into it but moreover that real friendships had developed over the course of the project. Everyone involved in this project, be it as a participant, organiser, teacher or volunteer, felt very emotional about the course coming to an end and a few tears were shed when saying our goodbyes. The ten weeks went by in a heartbeat and I am looking forward to being part in the next course again and hopefully seeing many familiar faces.

Originally published in UEL OLIve Course Blog