First off, I apologize for not having written anything for a while. I have been catching up with uni work for the last few weeks. 1 large presentation, 1 essay, 1 assignment, and 1 test might not sound like a lot of work. But trust me, when you have to make sure a group of 7 people finish a project on time, read 10 empirical studies to come up with a theme for your essay, research different business industries and firms to write a speculative application for an internship, and go through all the materials since the beginning of 2nd semester to prepare for a test, they will add up to a mountain of work.
However, being a student at King’s with tons of assignments should not put a limit on what you could do (or have time to do). After all, spending time doing things other than reading, typing on your computer, and browsing Facebook is healthy; it shows your future employer you can manage your time well and that living in London is more than studying, working, and taking photos of famous places. My advice: leave your room and your shyness behind. Go out there and commit yourself to something that you are truly passionate about. It will pay off, I promise.
So what is it that I do in my free time? Voluntary work! Long story short. Upon moving to London, I was determined to continue doing what I had done since 10th grade: volunteering. The first few months were rather difficult, as I tried to adjust myself to the new academic environment while applying for a volunteering position at King’s College Hospital (unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. But I will probably try again this coming September). After attending a few sessions organized by the Marketing Department, I learned of an opportunity to become a part of King’s Student Ambassador Scheme. Well, I loved talking to people, I was proud of being a student here, and I was a student ambassador in high school. I applied, got two interviews and received two job offers. If you plan to visit King’s, chances are you will see me in the crowd of enthusiastic and always-smiling red shirt wearers.
About 3 weeks ago, I received an email from King’s Widening Participation about a literacy project in South London. Having been a tutor for 2 years and loved working with young adults, I wrote Imogen from London Citizens, the organization responsible for the project. She responded promptly to my email and offered to meet me at King’s the week after. Never spent more than half an hour talking to someone I just met about things I was genuinely interested in, I was surprised to find myself actively engaging in conversation with Imogen – an energetic and articulate young woman. She explained to me what the project was about, what London Citizens did and what motivated her to choose what she did. I then told her about my life in Vietnam and my experience in Germany. The conversation then turned to the assembly London Citizens would be holding in a few days in Borough of Southwark, to which I was also invited. Having been to a few community meetings myself, I had rather low expectations of what would be covered. To my surprise, the topics (living wage, housing, dealing with police, safety on the street, and child destitution) were very relevant and up-to-date. I felt particularly passionate about living wage (i.e. the minimum amount of money one needs to live in London), since I had that problem myself. I shared my story with Imogen and eventually decided to share it at the assembly upon her suggestion.
The assembly was held at a local school. Despite coming from different backgrounds (ranging from religious to educational institutions), all 10 groups created an atmosphere more or less like that of a close knit community gathering. It started with casual greetings and proceeded to testimonies on the 5 topics. As the first one to testify about living wage, I was nervous. But I felt sympathy coming from the audience as I stood on the podium and told my story. Each group then discussed their own plan of action. The meeting concluded with agenda for their next meeting with candidates for Leader of Southwark Council. I thought the meeting ended with me simply knowing more about the area I live in. As it turned out, I gained more than just that. The Head teacher of the school offered me a part-time job after listening to my story; I could use my math and semi-professional teaching skills to help students at her school a few hours a week. If I had not gone to that meeting and let my idleness take hold of me, I would not have met and talked with so many active and committed people. They inspired me and taught me how small actions of many individuals could lead to major changes.
So I guess the point of this very, very long blog entry is to encourage you to find your own passion and not hesitate to pursue it. Sure, it might be difficult at the beginning to figure out what your passion is and balance it with uni work. But once you realize how meaningful your work is not only to you but also to others, you will come to enjoy, love, and seek opportunities to continue it.
Written in London on a strangely beautiful day in February.
P.S. The day after the assembly, on my way home, a girl from that school stopped and said ‘hi’ to me. I did not recognize who she was until very later on: she was at the meeting and heard my story. So yes, another good thing about meeting people: you will meet people who know you, despite the fact that you do not remember meeting them.