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Melissa Koe's picture


If volunteering is your thing, the U has a center dedicated specifically to doing community work! The Center for Community-Engaged Learning provides a lot of information for potential and current volunteers and lists organizations that partner with the U that are available for volunteering positions.

Why volunteer?

  • Gain useful skills to add to your skill set such as communication and leadership
  • Volunteering will help you network in your career
  • Meet new people
  • Add valuable experience to your resume
  • Be more connected to your community (really important as an international student)
  • Learn more about the Twin Cities as you volunteer

How do I volunteer?

  • Sign up for an info session on their website. Find out which organisations and volunteering projects are the most suitable for your major!
  • Enroll for a service-learning class (which is what I did)

What is a service-learning class?

A service-learning class uses volunteering and community work as its major form of class work. Hence, volunteering is required for a service-learning class. There will be a list of accepted organizations you can volunteer with for each class depending on the subject and class content. In my case, I am enrolled in FSOS3104 (Global and Diverse Families). I was given many choices for organizations I could volunteer for - including the Minneapolis Public Library, YWCA, and various schools.

I chose to volunteer for the public library as an adult tutor, but unfortunately, that fell through. Since we had to apply for at least three organizations, the center automatically sent my application to the second organization I chose - Banaadir Academy.

Banaadir Academy is a charter school catered mostly to Somalian immigrants and Minnesotan-born Somalians from grades K to 8!


Honestly, I was pretty nervous when I learned that I had to work with children instead of adults. I have never worked with kids in a class setting before and I never thought that I could actually do it - but I did (so never be afraid to try something new!). As an international student, volunteering helped me feel like I was a part of the community here. As a volunteer, you are working in line with the organization’s mission - so make sure you find something you are passionate about! Don’t get me wrong, it is good to work and earn money - but volunteering has less restrictions than working for international students. Many directors and staff at the organizations actually started out as volunteers. I also feel less homesick when I volunteer, and I can even share the experience with my friends and family back home!

I have been here for a few months as a Classroom Aide and Reading Buddy and it is honestly one of the best decisions I've made. They also have many other positions such as gym and math aids. Overall, I believe that volunteering is a good way to get involved especially as an international student as it can be really hard to make friends here too. And, who knows? You might be able to learn a thing or two from being involved in the community! :)