Getting more than what you put in: A Spanish exchange student’s volunteer experience

Posted on Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Portrait of spanish exchange student Maria Gomez Regalado

Maria Gomez Regalado, a translation and music bachelor’s student from the University of Grenada, in Spain, wanted to get involved with the aged because of her grandmother in Spain, who was in need of company. When, as an exchange student at uOttawa during the 2018–2019 academic year, she registered for FLS2791, a course on learning French as a second language through community volunteering, she chose a placement as a French-language friendly visitor at the Garry J. Armstrong long-term care facility.

During her placement, Maria had different responsibilities. She went for walks with the most isolated residents and talked with them. She was also a meal assistant, offering particular assistance to a resident who could not feed herself.  Maria also met a resident who deeply affected her. The resident could no longer speak but appreciated when Maria would sing her a song and play piano. Her happiness was palpable and her smile contagious!

Maria considers volunteering as more than just a way to get a future job. For her, the goal of community engagement is to fight injustice, to see things differently, with some distance, and to raise one’s awareness of social issues.  That’s why she would like to work for the UN as a translator.  

If Maria decides to stay on in Ottawa, she would like to take part in other placements offered by the Centre. She says that such resources and opportunities to volunteer and practise her French are not available to her at her home university in Grenada. Her experience at Garry J. Armstrong enabled her to sharpen her language skills and form friendships. While she had some difficulty obtaining her Canadian police record check (a required step for exchange students who wish to volunteer), she strongly encourages all students to get involved in the community.  For her, you get more out of it than what you put in, though your initial goal may be the opposite.

By: Andrew Heath

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