Abdulrahman Alnaar arrived at the UBC Okanagan Campus on September 21, 2009 to study political science. An international student from the Kingdom of Bahrain, he had volunteered extensively through his high school back home (with mentoring and environmental initiatives). Abdul quickly discovered that it was too late to sign up for many campus activities, and a busy course and exam schedule left him no time to participate in the campus community.
“I had a rough first year. I learned that international students really need to get busy with something, but I didn’t have the time to sign up and things like intramurals had passed. That was my motivation to get more involved.”
By his second year at UBC Okanagan, he had signed on as a Residence Advisor for the student accommodations. He has become very active in helping other students get involved in the campus community. He has been part of head shaving and taking a pie to the face to raise funds for Cancer Awareness Week, with 2012 marking the 4th anniversary of those campus activities. Another of his roles is planning the campus activities for African Awareness Week in March.
A Director at Large for the UBC Okanagan Students Union, in late August he met with Naomi Yamamoto, the BC Minister of Advanced Education, to advocate for new strategies around campus life for international students.
International students must spend a full year on campus before they can obtain an off-campus work permit, a barrier to getting engaged in the broader community. Abdul helps international students overcome this waiting period by encouraging volunteerism.
He participated in the Reading Week Day of Caring series last February (a partnership between United Way and the Community Service Learning Program) by helping out at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, something he really enjoyed and would like to keep doing. With a new Community Outreach initiative forming through the students union, many more students will get to be part of this kind of volunteer experience.
“It’s all about collaboration,” says Abdul. “The more bodies you have promoting volunteerism, the more students will know about the services and opportunities. We’re trying to motivate students, and bridge cultural diversity through volunteering.”
Students at UBC Okanagan can receive wonderful support in these endeavours.
“The university has a number of programs that provide students with an opportunity to get involved both on and off campus. With close to 8000 students on campus there are lots of ways to contribute to our campus community as well,” says Phil Bond, Manager of the Community Service Learning Program at UBC Okanagan.
When it comes to helping others integrate into the campus community, little things add up. One of the most important roles that Abdul has taken on is helping to coordinate “move in day” for new students arriving to campus.
“It’s a huge operation. It’s phenomenal to see how people team up to make it happen in one day. It gets really hectic but it’s always a fun time.”
Students who want to get connected to the campus community can check out the UBC Okanagan Students Union or the UBC Okanagan Community Service Learning Program. The UBC Okanagan Get Involved Centre is another great place for students to start.
The Okanagan Volunteer Opportunities Fair at Parkinson Recreation Centre in Kelowna will be held on September 8th from 10 am – 3 pm. This is a great way for students to explore off-campus volunteer opportunities and meet with various charities. For more information on the event, please click here.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.