International students at the University have been giving back to the Edinburgh community.
In 2010, the Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) launched a volunteering service for students.
Since then, over 800 international students have become involved in local projects.
Volunteering is a great way for international students to get involved with their local community, develop new skills and get the most out of their time in the UK.
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The volunteering service has launched a languages volunteering scheme in partnership with the local council, schools in East Lothian and Judith McClure, the convenor of the Scotland-China Education Network.
This project saw 18 international students run projects at primary schools designed to stimulate primary-age children’s interest in other languages and cultures.
Dina Balanehru (MSc Ecological Economics) and Ashley Le (MB ChB Medicine) were matched with Katie Reeves, a teacher at East Linton Primary School, where they ran a project on their home country of Malaysia
The children were taught common phrases, including selamat pagi (good morning), apa khabar? (how are you) and terima kasih (thank you), learnt about the differences between Scotland and Malaysia, and watched short films and clips of traditional dancing.
Children even got to sample Pandan cake, a Malaysian traditional pastry, and learned how to use chopsticks.
Other students ran similar projects in other schools in German, Korean, Farsi, Norwegian, French, Japanese, Hindi, Greek and Mandarin.
Dina and Ashley have been fantastic. Having them come into the classroom has made the experience of learning about a new language and culture much more real for the children. It's been amazing how quickly they have picked up the basics of the language and how easy it has been to fit bits of Malay into our daily routine. Hopefully it will have increased the children's enthusiasm for learning new languages in the future.
Teacher, East Linton Primary School
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In this film, Japanese linguistics students Kiyono Fujinaga and Yuko Matsuoka explain how they’ve benefitted from volunteering at Juniper Green Primary School.
International students have also helped bring traditional music to Edinburgh communities.
The Columcille Centre is a day centre in Morningside for adults with learning difficulties. It runs a course across five venues called Music for ALL.
Music for ALL is designed to be accessible to people with learning disabilities, and a selection of musical instruments is available for participants to play.
Several international students have taught and performed their country’s traditional music at the sessions. One volunteer is Han Wang, a talented singer.
Thanks for giving me this experience to get to know and help these lovely people. It's also my honour to work with respectable people and other volunteers. I shall never forget this!
International students also help a variety of Edinburgh-based befriending charities.
Xianghua (‘Cici’) Li from China is working towards a PhD in Clinical Neuroscience.
She has been volunteering with disability charity Ecas for almost a year and has recently won a volunteering award for her efforts. Her befriendee does not leave her house very often and has lived by herself for about 10 years.
Saddened by the fact that her befriendee could not go outside, Xianghua decided to take her spring flowers so that the outside world could come to her. She also managed to encourage her to go on an outing arranged by Ecas.
Xianghua and other befrienders have volunteered in emotionally challenging roles. Other students are befriending children from families affected by HIV, or in lone-parent families.
Befriending isn’t always easy. However the initiative, confidence and new perspective many international students bring with them are a gift to the organisations concerned.
All of our befrienders make an amazing difference to the lives of an isolated physically disabled person by visiting them on a regular basis, providing company and helping the person to go out and about. Student volunteers in particular always display an incredible amount of enthusiasm for the work that they do as a befriender.
Ecas volunteer co-ordinator
This article was published on Jul 20, 2012