The value of being an international student volunteer
Tēnā koutou, greetings everyone, my name is Pengbo Jiang. I am an ex-international student with a passion for helping people.
I am originally from China and I came to New Zealand at the age of ten as an international student with very little knowledge about this country or of the English language. I completed my intermediate and high school years in Newlands, Wellington and later graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration from Victoria University of Wellington.
I have been working in many different industries since graduating from Victoria University and currently I am working as a Senior Consultant at Ernst & Young. Last year, I completed a Master of Management from Massey University after four years part-time distance study while working fulltime.
You can clearly see there are lots of things that have happened in my life here in New Zealand, but that's not what I going to talk about, at least not this time. I am going to share my 'night job or weekend job' with you.
You can easily imagine how tough and difficult it was for a ten year old to first arrive in a foreign country all alone without knowing the local language, not to mention the culture difference and many other barriers. Embracing the unknown and tackling something new can be very daunting and it can be extremely unsettling. I struggled to learn and to understand many different new things when I have first arrived, but luckily many people helped me, particularly from the local community and from the school.
Their simple acts of kindness and the volunteering of their time made a great difference in my life that I will never forget. That's where my desire to volunteer and to be part of ‘giving back to the community’ comes from.
At the beginning, I knew that I didn’t have a lot to offer – I didn’t have many skills to help others. But never let that be a barrier as every kind deed counts. Even holding a door open for a stranger, something so simple, can make an impact on someone's life.
By understanding my limits, I chose to start with something small and easy. The first volunteering job I did was to help with my school's fundraising sausage sizzles. I’m not good at cooking so I helped to collect the money. I then joined the school's international student buddy programme to help those international student who’d just arrived. From there, I’ve continued on the volunteering path and am still doing it today.
Through volunteering you can challenge yourself to achieve personal goals, practice using your skills and discover hidden talents.
It's true that the more time you donate the more benefits you'll experience. Volunteering can offer an opportunity for you to try something new and gain experience in a different field, while also giving back to the community and feeling good.
With 14 years of volunteering, I have moved from being a cashier at the sausage sizzles to becoming a board member of a nationwide non-for-profit organisation. I’ve moved from being a student buddy to being a business mentor of Business Mentor New Zealand and a student mentor for Victoria University of Wellington. I’ve moved from helping to raise a few hundred dollars to million dollar fundraising campaigns. And to cap it all off I’ve also moved from being a newly arrived international student to being a true New Zealander who’s successfully settled in this beautiful land.
Volunteering can be enjoyable and rewarding, not to mention the exposure to other cultures and ethnic diversity.
I believe one of the best parts about giving to others is that it motivates them to give as well. Volunteering can go a lot further than most people realise. The efforts that can be made are endless. Volunteering makes you a great person and New Zealand GREAT!
Before I finish, I would like to share one last thing with you about what I have learned from volunteering. A lot of people once told me that what I want to do is impossible or that I should wait for the right opportunity before doing it. But everything is possible. All you’ve got to do is start somewhere – it will become possible as soon as you start doing it. If you are willing to do a little bit more, if you are willing to stay up just a little bit longer, sacrifice just a little bit more of your time, believe in yourself to question the impossible. Trust me everything will become possible when you start doing it.
About the contributors
Pengbo currently works as an Associate Director at Bank of China. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration from Victoria University of Wellington and a Master of Management from Massey University. Pengbo is an ex-international student and started volunteering at his age of 12 and has donated thousands of hours to numerous community organisations and projects. Pengbo was also a recent recipient of a Kiwibank Local Hero Award for Wellington 2017.