work experience

Places for Students to Volunteer Domestic and Abroad

How do you give back to those around you? This is a question that doesn’t often get asked, or even thought about by a percentage of college students. In between cramming for exams, trying to stay afloat in the social stratosphere that is college, and planning for your future, students tend to simply run out of hours in the day to give back. That’s not to say that everyone does, but let’s admit it, it’s not always in the foreground of our priorities. Work gets in the way, time slips by, and things just don’t work out. However, if the mood strikes you, and the time permits, I have to say that volunteering, both locally and abroad, is one of the most rewarding and beneficial activities that you can engage in as a college student.

There are a number of reasons to get involved in service, the most obvious being that you’re helping other people. However, that’s not always the first reason people get involved—and it doesn’t have to be. Volunteering is a life-long activity that can serve you physically, socially and mentally. You are physically bettering your community, making lasting relationships that can transfer well beyond service projects, and doing something good for yourself, while also helping others! What beats that?

All of these reasons are great—however, as well intentioned as service may be, these benefits may go overlooked as a result of how crammed and busy our college lives tend to be. This doesn’t make service any less desirable to get involved with, but it does make it trickier to “market” to college students. How can you convince students to give up time, energy and effort for a cause that doesn’t seem as relevant as Tuesday’s Biology exam? How can you showcase the wonderful and lasting impressions that service can make without overshadowing the real reason for doing the service in the first place? It’s a balancing act—you want students, and other volunteers to enjoy service, and have a good time, but also understand the depth of the activity, and the “whys” behind doing it in the first place.

With all of this being said, where and how can students and potential volunteers look to get involved? Is it better to go far away to help, or can you look in your own backyard?

My advice is to look at both! There are numerous trips and geographic areas that you can search for! You can choose to go far away, or stick to more locally based programs and projects. My school is on the smaller side and specializes in service trips—it’s one of the larger departments in our service office—so take these trips with a grain of salt or use them as a jumping off point for where you and your school could eventually travel to, or for projects you could eventually start!

Domestic Trips that get rave reviews—both on the “fun” scale and the impact that the students are able to make—are located all over the country.  Over spring break, 40 students travel to Harlan, Kentucky located in the Appalachian Mountains. While there, the students stay in small log cabin. They not only make friends and memories, but also help to rebuild homes and neighborhoods in the local community. Students participate and work on full-scale construction sites with local carpenters, builders and technicians. The trip is rewarding for the community because they receive outside support and recognition for their hardship, however it is also rewarding for the students as they see how others live in this country, and experience first hand the importance of supporting and giving back.

Students also travel to reservations in Montana to work with and support children and communities. Another large project that students are involved with is an annual Habitat for Humanity trip. The location changes every year, however the students are able to engage in hands on work that benefits a family or community in need.

Other domestic, local projects you can look to get involved with are soup kitchens, local shelters, food banks, thrift stores, city clean ups, charity walks or events, or even rehabilitation centers, community centers, or after school programs. Any help or time you are willing to give is appreciated. Find a cause, or project that means something to you and search for ways to give back.

If you interested in volunteering abroad there other options. Some students take a year off and volunteer to travel the world to different countries, fulfilling different needs as they come along. Other students take trips to the Dominican, or to Central America. These trips require research and most likely, formal arrangements. Don’t let the restrictions deter you, just do your research and look for a program that fits your needs.

Volunteering can be special and rewarding. Not only will you make life-long memories, but also you will find an activity that you can participate in for years to come. The relationships and experience you gain for the simplest of service can change your outlook, and maybe even the time you have left at school!

-Ring Queen

Unorthdox Gigs to Get You Through College and Beyond

College graduates are coming up on an unforgiving economy and a Congress that screams SOCIALISM, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!! and plays possum every time legislation comes up for safety nets for the young, struggling startups like you and I (a little help, please??).

That's a sweet bridge. Look for large support structures to shield from gusty winter winds.

The facts are—adapt or die.  I mean, not literally.  You could live under a bridge.  My suggestion: think outside of the box when it comes to acquiring skills and experience you’ll need for your career.  Everyone’s waiting tables and applying to the same internships—the right question to be asking is what can you do to stand out?

When I was kicked out of school a few years ago for failing grades my dad said “don’t come home” which was crazy at the time.  I was 18-years-old, had only worked at Chili’s as a hostess and Pitti’s Pizza as a delivery driver.  I wasn’t exactly in high demand, and I owed Princeton a lot of money to come back the next year.  I did what any normal 18-year-old would do and hightailed my butt down to KY to ride racehorses.  I had only had informal experience riding horses but the training was on-the-job and once I broke into the industry I knew I’d be set.  And I was.  I waited tables for a while but wound up riding and training thoroughbreds for three years and at the end of it, here I am back in school but with a wealth of knowledge to bring to my next position (and a fat wallet—I was making upwards of $30/hr, sometimes more).  You get perseverance, dedication, and a good work ethic.  I learned how to deal with problems on my own (no Human Resources on the racetrack)… you get the picture.

You have more options than the typical barista gig, serving job, Abercrombie & Fitch or the elusive office internship.  Furthermore, and this is huge, it will give you a cushion when you leave school, hopefully giving you greater leeway to wait for the right job (as a rule of thumb, a year is the average time it takes to find the right job out of college) while working at a place or learning a trade that has room for growth. Consider also that most of your fellow classmates are waiting tables.  Employers have seen the same old b.s. bullet points under “Server/Bartender at Buddy’s Bar”.  It’s not exciting, it’s vanilla, and it’s too comfortable.  Of college graduates who don’t get jobs, the majority stay at their serving job or barista job.

Job #1 that will get you through college and beyond:

Personal Training: A member of Payscale’s 20 jobs that pay over $20 an hour list.

Let’s break down the job and certification here:

Depending on where you work, you can recruit and manage your own clients, as well as run your own business.   Some gyms allow their personal trainers to ‘freelance.’  The trainer pays a fee to the gym for the use of their equipment and space, but everything else goes directly into the trainer’s pocket.  At other places, you will be paid by the gym to train their clients.  This usually shakes out worse for the trainer per hour but you’re responsible for less bookkeeping (a plus or minus depending on your schedule).

For $400, you can get an ACE certification, plus your exam fee is covered.  In a Mid-Western Town, with only ACE credentials, you can expect:

Average Pay:  $11.72/hr

With more certifications, and certainly in areas where the job is more in demand, the median pay range is  $20.08 – $27.55

I have a few friends who are personal trainers and they adore their jobs.  They meet lots of cool, interesting people and they make changes in people’s lives.

Job #2 that will get you through college and beyond:

Construction:  Two unskilled construction jobs make Payscale’s 20 jobs that pay over $20 an hour.  Ladies, when I type into google ‘female construction worker’ it autofills ‘costumes.’  That’s pretty insulting considering men are not inherently better carpet installers or drywall finishers.  Yet they have a corner on the market.  According to the December 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, construction is coming out of a long industry-wide depression—people are building again!  No degree necessary, you get on-the-job training, which means BOOYAH! your training is paid for by the company.

It’s unorthodox advice, but consider that graduates fresh out of college have a reputation for being undisciplined, not ready for the working world and soft. (adult babies, basically, who need to be potty-trained in the business world).  A consortium held by hiring managers found that the three most important (and lacking!) skills in recent graduates are:  Work Ethic, Teamwork/Collaboration and Oral Communications. All things you can’t help but pick up while doing manual labor jobs (if you don’t want a hammer dropped on your head).   Working in an office isn’t the only place you can pick up skills that make you more valuable to employers, and it beats the heck out of the $7/hr you’ll make at the G A P.

Construction Project Managers make upwards of $100,000 a year and most of them are terrible.  Of all the industries that rely on contract-work, construction ranks worst.  Most of them get paid obscenely well for doing their job at a mediocre level.  Think you can do better?  Start climbing that ladder–get out there and show em!

Job #3 to get you though college and beyond:

Blogging is a great way to make money while you’re attending school but you didn’t think I’d tell you all my secrets, did you?


I’m reading Essentials of Biology

Why Internships Are Vital

Each year, millions of students graduate college with a bright future in mind, knowing that they have taken the first major step in finding a lifelong career. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will find that career in the next month or even the next year. A recent article published by USA Today stated that unemployment for college graduates is at its highest point since 1970. At the beginning of 2011, the Jobless rate for college grads was right around 5.1%. In that same time frame, there were 2.4 million people who were unemployed but had earned their bachelors degree or higher.

Things don’t seem very promising for people (like me) who are in their final semester of college. However, it’s important to understand that the unemployment rate of college graduates is less than half of the unemployment rate of non-graduates, which is currently hovering around 10%. Students who graduate with a Master’s degree or Doctoral degree aren’t immune to this phenomenon. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, In August 2011, 4.6% of graduates age 25 and up with a Bachelor’s degree or higher are unemployed. The fact that the group is made up of people ages 25 and up signals that most of that group completed or are currently working on post-graduate studies.

In today’s competitive job market, it’s particularly important to complete an internship or even more than one. Internships offer many benefits, such as experience, knowledge in a certain field of study, and meeting professionals in your industry. Not to mention that if you prove yourself at your internship, you could be offered a full-time job. If nothing else, you will more than likely find references who can help you take your next step forward on your career path, whatever that might be.

Some Internship’s are unpaid, however whether paid or unpaid, they provide essential knowledge and experience, and contacts to add to your resume. Interns provide a company with fresh faces, prepared to do any kind of work and do it right. Some majors require internships as a graduation requirement, which is a good thing if you ask me. It can’t hurt a student or recent graduate to gain valuable working skills and experience, while along the way meeting professionals who play a fundamental role in a workplace community.

The bottom line here is that Internships are a way for young people to get their foot in the door in an industry. They are a good way to provide young graduates and soon-to-be graduates with the things necessary for finding a job in these tough economic times.




I’m reading New Perspectives on Microsoft Office 2010