My first CSL experience happened while I was taking a political science course. I was pretty excited about the topic and was ready for interesting discussions and assignments. But as I sat in the class, the professor mentioned a new component within the course, something I hadn’t encountered before: community service-learning.
I’ll admit that my heart dropped a little. Ahh man, community service? This isn’t what I expected. I had nothing against volunteering. But I was just prepared for a course with all its conventional expectations – readings, attending classes, talking, handing in papers. It’s a very routine process, but a safe one. Community service as a part of my course would be a risk.
As I saw community partners come in throughout the next couple of days, I started to consider sticking with the course. The community partners seemed so excited to have students on board – there was something particular about having academic work play out in the real world. I decided to take a chance and see how this might pan out.
I had nothing against volunteering. But I was just prepared for a course with all its conventional expectations.
After considering a few options, I ended up with the Nile Valley Foundation, a cultural organization for the African community in Edmonton. The results were incredibly unexpected. I found myself thinking about the way theories manifest into tangible action, or whether the two contradict. It’s an incredibly complex topic, not one I think too many people find themselves thinking about. My time there was short but incredibly fulfilling, as the organization’s staff was welcoming and incredibly passionate about their work.
Flash forward one year, and now I find myself working with the U of A CSL program. And it’s a heartwarming surprise to see how much work the staff put into making the student experience truly comprehensive and enriched. From the beginning where the staff so smoothly facilitate the security checks, straight to the end where they hold evaluation surveys to get feedback from the students, it’s such an important process. There’s an entire group of people dedicated to creating a bridge between students, teachers and community partners. It is incredibly impressive and humbling to know and work with such an excellent team.
So, if students are looking to try out something new, look up the CSL website or head on over to the fourth floor of the Old Arts Building and chat with a team member about CSL. Pursue a CSL certificate or try out one course to see if it’s for you. It’s worth trying something new – you never know what you’ll experience!
Side note: For those who’ve already gotten their feet wet with CSL, come on out to CSLebration on April 7!
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.