Firoza Dodhi has volunteered with Team Up for two years. She served on Team Up's UCL committee, and has been one of our most active volunteers. Here, she writes about her journey with us by sharing the top 10 ways Team Up has impacted her university experience and outlook on life.
During my time with Team Up, I've had a fantastic experience both in sessions and with my fellow committee members on campus. It's hard to put into words what it is that makes Team Up special but I've tried to summarise it in the following ten ways it has transformed my time at university and general perspective on things.
It is commonly acknowledged that university is an opportunity for personal growth and building self-awareness. Volunteering is an incredible way to hone skills such as time-management, discipline and organization. What makes Team Up unique is that there are countless opportunities to develop these skills both directly and indirectly. The entire process, from induction through to attending weekly sessions and preparing lesson plans is designed to teach tutors the importance of time-management, strong communication, responsibility and numerous other skills.
Learning from my pupils
Team Up has taught me a lot, but I have also learned a great deal from my pupils! Since every student learns differently, it has been a challenge to ensure that all my pupils have been taught in a way that consistently engages them. This challenge has strengthened my communication skills as I have learned to tailor my responses to situations to match individuals’ needs. This skill in particular has been really useful in a work context.
Confidence and network building
Team Up provides an excellent opportunity to make the most of volunteering by creating plenty of extra-curricular opportunities on-campus. Through on-campus recruiting, Team Up society members have the chance to interact with our peers and faculty to develop research, marketing and communication skills. There is nothing more motivational than engaging with a lecture hall full of students about how to be part of a movement of change.
Developing focus and commitment
The commitment required from the Team Up programme has really helped me maintain focus at university. Team Up operates in a way that schedules tutoring around university life and other commitments. Meeting the same group of pupils once a week, targeting problem areas for learning and monitoring that learning over the span of an academic year has not only helped me to value the importance of Team Up’s work as I saw my pupils progress over the year, but it was also hugely motivating to know that our focus and commitment as a group was what helped them to achieve this. I know from speaking to my fellow tutors that witnessing our tutees’ growth is a common highlight of our university experiences.
Re-learning how to dream big
The students we tutor are eager to learn, challenge themselves and chase their dreams and ambitions. Oftentimes, in the pressurized university environment we can lose sight of our original motivations for pursuing our degree-subject. Working with young people who are committed to achieving their full potential encouraged me to keep sight of even my ‘wildest’ dreams.
Understanding my privilege
Living in London is a constant reminder of the juxtaposition of privilege and disadvantage. Camden is a great example of a borough where great wealth and opportunity reside alongside extreme disadvantage and lack of opportunity. The chance to tutor and mentor young people facing disadvantage forces us to step out of the Bloomsbury bubble and engage with our privilege.
Learning that grassroot-level initiatives do matter and they can make a change
In the social media age, when we’re confronted with a multitude of fundraising challenges and campaigns, it can often become overwhelming to choose what cause to donate to and participate in. One of the most engaging elements of being involved with Team Up was the great responsibility entrusted upon us. Indeed, the fact that Team Up tutors are trusted with raising the attainment and aspirations of a group of young people only a few years younger than them and mentoring this group over a year is an empowering feeling, and has taught me that individuals can make a significant difference in the lives of other people.
Learning how to be selfless
Being invested in someone else’s potential gives you the opportunity to change a young person’s life. My fondest memory volunteering with Team Up was in the 2014-15 academic year, when I worked with a student taking A-level English. Although she was initially struggling both in her personal life and with her academics, once she gained confidence in her academic life, and the knowledge that someone was ‘on her side’ she found the strength to improve her personal circumstances. She ultimately gained acceptance to a Russell Group university for the following academic year.
Giving me a sense of direction
Team Up encourages us to focus our energies on someone beyond ourselves. Working with another person in a challenging situation can oftentimes make manageable even what appears to be insurmountable. On a personal level, getting involved with Team Up has helped me to clearly define how I want to use my law degree for good in the future: to provide access to justice for vulnerable groups in the community (for instance through educational rights) and create a platform for wider community engagement.
Learning how to empower others
Widening access to education and being committed to a more socially just world are hugely important and have the potential to transform our entire society for the better. In fact, mentoring is an excellent investment for society, because it contributes to building a world where young people are more likely to achieve their full potential despite any challenges and stresses of adolescence. Fostering a love of learning and a growth mindset in our pupils motivates them to stay focused, and on a wider scale, society benefits from having more well-educated, confident and well-rounded individuals.
The symbiotic relationship that develops from volunteering with Team Up has constantly proven to be a remarkable movement for positive change. My time with Team Up has been life-changing and I’d encourage everyone to consider applying to take part of Team Up as a tutor in 2016/17!