Before I started volunteering, I was studying Physical Education in Seoul, South Korea. I had also been in the Korean Military Army for two years. I heard about Volunteering Matters through a family friend, whose son had been a volunteer in the UK with CSV. I enjoyed helping people during my Military Service and I wanted to continue to gain valuable skills by helping others in another country.
I volunteered with Kurt, a student who has disabilities. He studies at Warwick University and so I lived in the same student accommodation as Kurt and two other volunteers who support him. The campus at Warwick University is fresh, green and beautiful. There were lots of good people at the University and I enjoyed meeting others.
When I arrived in Coventry, everything was a ‘first’ for me and so everything was a challenge to overcome. I was initially confused by new accents, particularly as the other volunteers were from South America and Germany so we all spoke very differently! The other volunteers were very helpful and understanding – they helped me settle in to the local area very quickly.
At the beginning of my placement, I found it difficult to meet other people on campus and to speak confidently in English with others. I enjoy playing football in my spare time so I played with students on campus and this helped me to socialise with native English speakers. In my spare time, I have also fulfilled my goals of attending Premier League football games across the UK and seeing Les Miserables in London.
At first, I found it difficult as Kurt was struggling with personal issues. I was anxious about broaching this subject with him. However, I found that being reliable and consistent in my support of him helped him as it was one thing he didn’t then have to worry about.
While volunteering, Kurt and I have built up a good relationship and I know that I will keep in touch with him after I return to Korea. Kurt and I certainly helped each other through new situations this summer.
Kurt is well liked and a very sociable person so he usually has lots of social events to attend. As part of my volunteer role, I support Kurt to get to his appointments on time by helping him to get ready and prepared. It’s important to encourage Kurt (not that he needs it!) but recently, Kurt did not look well and so I suggested that he cancel a meeting with some of his friends. He reluctantly agreed and rested instead, thanking me the next day for noticing he was unwell. I feel that my confidence personally and in the role grew as I was able to tell Kurt my thoughts and give advice.
When I began volunteering, I really wanted to be able to help someone and make a difference. I enjoy spending time with Kurt and I am proud and happy that the volunteering placement has been so worthwhile. Initially I felt it was more important to care practically for Kurt than to be his friend, but I now know that a good friend makes a good carer too.
My one regret? That I didn’t apply sooner and volunteer for longer!