Year of Graduation: 2010
Major(s): History & German
Former Position: Volunteer, Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste (Action Reconciliation Service for Peace-ARSP), Dachau, Germany; I volunteered at the Church of Reconciliation, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. (Graduate School: Currently working on a Ph.D in European History, University of California-San Diego)
How did you decide to volunteer after graduation?
I wanted to go to graduate school for German history, but I first wanted to return abroad (I studied abroad in Salzburg in 2008) to improve my German and to further familiarize myself with my intended themes of study. I found out about ARSP while looking for volunteer programs during my senior year and decided to apply.
What are some things to consider when thinking about volunteering?
Consider whether you want to volunteer in the states or go abroad and think about what type of work you want to do. Choose something you're passionate about or something that is meaningful to you, that you can wholeheartedly put all your effort into. If you choose something you do not enjoy, simply to use as a 'resume builder', a year of volunteering, especially if you're abroad, could be a long time to spend away from home.
What does your volunteer experience entail on a typical day?
My days are divided working at various sites throughout the city of Dachau. Currently, I work a couple of days per week at the Church of Reconciliation on the site of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site to converse with and answer questions for visitors. In addition, as I learn more about the memorial site and its history, I will soon start conducting tours of the site, mostly for visiting German school groups. I also work with a project called the Book of Remembrance, where we conduct research to compile biographies of former prisoners' lives. Finally, I work at a student center, where I help prepare for visiting school groups, who come to Dachau to engage in 1-3 day seminars, where they discuss themes relating to the National Socialist era in Germany.
What has been the most rewarding experience thus far? What has been the most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my experience so far has been the opportunity to meet and get to know people not only from Germany, but also from all over the world. My co-volunteers in Germany (there are 18 of us at various sites in Germany) come from Israel, Russia, Ireland, USA, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, and Germany. I find it fascinating to converse with them and hear their opinions and ideas on important world issues. I'm always astounded by the fact that even though we come from very different places, we are still very similar in many ways. The most challenging experience has been forming a new 'normal' here in Germany. However, the occasional language struggles aside, the challenges of getting settled here are not much different than they would be when relocating anywhere after college.
What resources did you use when researching and deciding to volunteer?
Since I worked at the Career Resource Center for three years in college, I was fortunate to have already been familiar with its great resources for seniors worrying about life after graduation. I especially scoured the CRC website's volunteer pages, where it has some great information about life as a volunteer and links to many programs. I attended a volunteer panel during the fall of my senior year, where former CSB/SJU alums came to talk about their volunteer experiences after graduation. I also attended the CSB/SJU Volunteer Fair, which is a great way to learn about some options and speak directly with people from various organizations. Finally, I simply conducted Google searches, using various, and related key words.
What has been your favorite part of volunteering?
It is great to be in a place where I can utilize what I learned from both my History and German majors. The opportunity to live abroad and get to know this country, its society, and its history and to experience first-hand many of the things I studied in college, is truly rewarding.
If you're interested in learning more about ARSP, go to: http://www.asf-ev.de/en/. There are opportunities not only for those interested in history, but also for those interested in the social work and political arenas as well. (At least a basic level of German is required.)