September 7, 2023, by Rebekah

My Placement with Refugee Roots

by Lily Painter, Sociology and Criminology student

Placement Overview:

For my second term during my second year at university, my application was accepted for the role as a ‘Volunteer Assistant’ for ‘Refugee Roots’. ‘Refugee Roots’ is a local charity located in Nottingham city centre and is an organisation that aims to aid and make the lives of asylum seekers, and their transition into a new country, less frightening. This placement involved taking part in or leading English classes, getting involved in the art sessions, as well as immersing myself in the gardening with other volunteers and employees. Additionally, I was asked to take part in ‘Befriending’ which involved 1 to 1 meeting with a refugee. The aim of befriending is to provide a personal space that encourages the forming of a friendship as a form of support. These are known as ‘befriending meetings’ and are organised between the volunteer and refugee via phone or email. ‘Refugee Roots’ gave me the freedom to choose when and where these meetings would take place, allowing a natural friendship to form.

The Application Process:

I attended a talk that was organised by the school of Sociology where a variety of the placement leaders had provided a description about each organisation and what sort of work they did. Upon hearing the different opportunities that were available, I decided to apply for Refugee Roots. The application process was straight-forward and after filling out the application form, I was contacted by the placement supervisor for an interview. One thing I would recommend is to make sure to do your research on the placement organisation so that you feel more familiar with the role and surrounding context of the company as its always good to understand and get to know the organisation and their principles or ethos! I completed my interview on Microsoft Teams and Daniel and Jasmine made the interview very comfortable. I would recommend just being yourself and to choose a placement that you truly think is suited to your personality and skills, this way you’ll benefit the most from the opportunity.

The Experience:

I loved my time at ‘Refugee Roots’, it was incredibly rewarding and gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people as well as develop new skills and confidence in myself and my abilities. I initially applied to gain some form of work experience and broaden my scope for career opportunities. Working as a volunteer assistant meant I was fully immersed in the work of the charity and felt like one of the team. It quickly became familiar, and I often looked forward to interacting with regular students and members of the charity. The placement also meant I was trying something entirely new as I had never taught English before, but it meant that I surprised myself with what I was capable of and how quickly I could adapt. At first, I was nervous about teaching as someone that is unqualified and inexperienced, however I learnt that I thoroughly enjoyed seeing refugees’ progression in English and it felt amazing to know that I was helping to contribute to their understanding of a foreign language which they were eager to learn.

The biggest challenge during my time at ‘Refugee Roots’ was overcoming my own self-doubt or feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing. Looking back, I realise that this was all part of the process and one of the ways it can build your confidence. As a result of trying something new and out of my comfort zone, I realised my own capabilities and the evaluability of the different experiences the University has to offer. To begin with, I also felt uncomfortable discussing money, particularly with a charity. However, after talking to my placement co-ordinators, I was assured that my discomfort was unnecessary and the importance of claiming expenses as a student was encouraged. I can identify now that although I felt slight discomfort, I overcame this using valuable skills such as professional communication which has provided me with some experience as well as one element to feel more comfortable about in the future.

Hearing people’s different stories and some of the things they have experienced was both touching, and something I will carry with in the future. The charity has allowed me to have a positive impact on the people I have helped within the charity, but it has also made a huge impact on my own life. The friendship that I built with my ‘Befriending’ partner is one that I hope to carry forward into the future, which just goes to show how applying for a placement can be full of lots of great surprises. I would say to anyone considering a placement to just go for it, as you have nothing to lose, and you may end up discovering things that could help when considering your next step after university.

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