It was almost like I had entered another world — and immediately, I felt a little sheepish that a whole year into my time at IU Bloomington I had not once ventured much further than Kirkwood, 10th street or College Mall. The community of Bloomington extended far beyond the Sample Gates, and it was about time I explored it.
I’ve been working for the past 10 years helping to connect students with the community that surrounds them. Of all the ways students could spend time while at IU Bloomington, there are two reasons I suggest that service should be at the top of the list:
- One of the best ways to make Bloomington feel like “home” as an IU student is through service.
I had friends here at IU and a place to live, but Bloomington started to feel like home once I knew people from the community as well. My first mentor here came about because of a volunteer role I had at a local after school program. She helped me learn how to be a professional, how to apply for jobs, and shared many amazing things that I didn’t know Bloomington had to offer.
- Serving and learning from others different from yourself is transformational.
During college, students are often trying to figure out who they are and what they care about. Having worked with students in a variety of capacities at IU, I can say that the students who do service typically gain the greatest clarity of identity. There is something about entering someone else’s world and developing empathy for their struggle that expands how we think about ourselves and our role in the world. It is not uncommon for students to return from a service experience knowing how they want to spend the rest of their time at IU, or knowing exactly which major is right for them.
So, how can students get started with service at IU?
- Check out the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network website. Did you know that the City of Bloomington has an office that exists just to connect volunteers with volunteer opportunities? Peruse their calendar or search for opportunities by keyword.
- Talk with your academic advisor about service-based opportunities through your school or major. Do they offer any service-learning courses (i.e. courses that give credit for service-based academic experiences), service-based internships, or courses that explore social issues?
- Check out a service-based student organization. Service clubs are the second-largest category of student organizations at IU. They’re a great way to make friends and offer anything from domestic to international service experiences. Contact an involvement advisor through Student Life and Learning for 1:1 help or check out the listing of service organizations at myINvolvement.indiana.edu.