Become a volunteer project manager with One World

Since I arrived to the University of Sheffield, I was attracted by the large International community on campus and wanted to be part of it. Being a postgraduate would not prevent me from taking part in the Union’s life!

As a PhD from France there was one difference in my approach: I wanted my time to be “worth it” and being able to add some lines to my CV. Early in 2014 I received an email advertising the One World initiative from the Union, and applied to be a One World Ambassador.

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Work in progress on the second One World Mandala (2015). Credits: One World, University of Sheffield Student’s Union

I was lucky to be selected, as the team is always half British & half International. Our first task was to reflect on how to make One World known as an initiative, to engage both home and international students which are often different in their aims and ages: it can be quite a challenge!

The starting point was the One World Café, every Thursday from 4-6pm in the Union (usually in Fusion). I was amazed to receive free tea and coffee and chat with people from all nationalities, faculties, genders and ages. As an ambassador I was facilitating conversations, and organising special activities such as Chinese New Year. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to find a language partner or meet new friends.

Moreover we were asked to develop other initiatives. I am a craft enthusiast fascinated with Asia, so I came up with the idea of a sand mandala. These are notably made by Buddhist monks to represent the idea of impermanence. A round design is drawn with colourful sand on the floor; various symbols are included such as the lotus flower representing Buddha.

At first the other ambassadors could not picture the idea well: I had a hard time explaining how to transplant the concept in the Union for anyone to make. Thankfully they trusted me and helped me draw a simplified pattern; the Union gave the budget to order colourful sand and squeeze bottles. We booked a spot in the Activities Zone: I had become a real project manager and created a rota for assistants to come assist me during the whole day.

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I am guilty of destroying our first sand mandala. Credits: Megan Wynne for One World, University of Sheffield Student’s Union

On the day, I was really nervous that the idea might not attract anyone. We set up a time-lapse camera and started pouring sand on the pattern. Suddenly someone asked if they could join: our first participant! Across the day, more staff and students joined: it was a success! At the end it was almost heart breaking to destroy the sand art and disperse it, as the Buddhist tradition dictates.

Afterwards I was put in charge of a team in the following semester and we created other projects such as the Wish Tree for World Week and the second sand mandala. Now my CV includes “project manager” but I also made priceless memories along the way; I could not have become one without One World team’s support. Maybe you are the next one?

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Portrait in front of our Wish Tree, World Week 2014. Credits: Gulsah Bilge for One World, University of Sheffield Student’s Union.

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