Symmetry http://symmetrypublicrelations.com Create. Communicate. Collaborate. Fri, 12 May 2017 17:36:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-Symmetry-Logo-32x32.png Symmetry http://symmetrypublicrelations.com 32 32 27894346 Why you should be using social media to develop your personal brand http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/17/why-you-should-be-using-social-media-to-develop-your-personal-brand/ Mon, 17 Apr 2017 11:01:21 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1543 Karlea Lewis

Branding no longer is something only businesses need to worry about. In today’s world, developing your own personal brand is often viewed as being essential for career advancement. This is especially true for individuals in the communications and marketing world.

What is a personal brand? According to Kevan Lee (2015) it’s “the process of managing and optimizing the way that you are presented to others.” Developing a personal brand is a way to showcase the value you offer to potential employers. It means making a commitment to portraying your personality and identity to the world in a consistent way.

Using your selfies to land your next job

Why is social media an important component of establishing your personal brand? According to Susan B. Joyce, at least 80% of employers Google potential employees before arranging interviews. So if you’re looking for a job, your social media presence and what it says about your personal brand definitely matters.

Whether or not you think about developing and managing your personal brand, you have one. Each public social media platform is part of that persona and people are going to check them and evaluate you based on what they find on social media.

Instead of seeing this as a negative, look at it as an opportunity. Social media offers a way to connect with potential employers or clients to show off your ability to use social media platforms effectively and to associate yourself with a certain area of understanding or expertise in your industry. These platforms are also a chance to create a positive image to show potential employers who you are and what your personal interests are in a way that may not come up organically in an interview.

How to use social media to develop your personal brand

Social media is a tool you can use when you’re looking for a new job or trying to establish yourself as an expert in your industry. Think about how you want to be perceived by others and be considerate of what you post. Like branding for an organization, think about your target audience, or who you want to resonate with. You don’t need to have a perfectly-curated life, but developing an authentic personal style and theme that is mostly cohesive will stand out.

Keeping it real

Authenticity is important, your personal brand needs to really be you. Your personal brand on social media should reflect who you are as a person and your real values. Create a tone and voice on social media that reflects your voice in real life. If someone follows you on social media, they shouldn’t be surprised when they actually meet you.

Keep social media social

Social networks are referred to as networks for a reason. It isn’t enough to just post pretty pictures, use your social media platforms to engage in dialogue with your connections. Establishing an online repartee with local industry professionals or potential clients can make it easier to establish a real-life connection the next time you attend a networking event. In addition, these platforms provide an opportunity to expand professional contacts and generate business leads with individuals all over the world.

Don’t wait to evaluate

Your personal brand that you portray on social media is something you should monitor and evaluate on a regular basis. Look for ways to constantly improve your image and don’t be afraid to try something new. Similar to how you portray yourself in the real world, your personal brand on social media can and should always be evolving.

The power of social media

You have the power to decide and shape how you are perceived online. Some people might see social media as trivial, but having a great Instagram feed really can make you stand out when you are applying for a job.

As a soon-to-be public relations graduate, I see social media as an opportunity to showcase my writing, photography, branding and styling abilities. Maybe my future employer won’t look at my Instagram feed before hiring me (although statistically, they probably will), but either way I’m still getting social media management practice that I hope to use in my next workplace.

 

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Conference dos and don’ts – a PR student’s guide to getting the most out of the experience http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/17/conference-dos-and-donts-a-pr-students-guide-to-getting-the-most-out-of-the-experience/ Mon, 17 Apr 2017 11:00:48 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1531 Alison Bryan

Attending a conference is a PR student’s dream – networking, social media, event coordination and layout. I’ve had the privilege of participating in a number of conferences during the last five years, the most recent conference being Jack Summit 2017.

Jack Summit is hosted by Jack.org, a mental health initiative involving young adults across Canada. At Jack Summit, 200 youth representatives from all 13 provinces and territories come together to discuss youth mental health in Canada.

As a PR student who loves going to conferences and experiencing new things, I was in my element. However, there’s a fine balance between going to a conference and being present at a conference – something that I’ve only recently started to learn. So, I’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help get the most out of any conference you attend.

  • DO network with as many people as possible. Networking allows you to connect with a range of people. You might meet someone from your hometown or you might meet someone from halfway across the country. Creating connections with a variety of people at a conference gives you people to learn from, lean on, and potentially collaborate with in the future.
  • DON’T over share on social media. Conference organizers will normally have a hashtag for an event, to track what it going on and what attendees are saying. This is great, but you want to keep things interesting for your followers, so don’t go overboard. Post a variety of content. Tweet about a meaningful quote you heard. Post a photo of the keynote address. Post a video of someone doing something funny. Don’t over share every detail about what is going on, because it could ruin fun stories for friends and family at a later time.
  • DO be present. This ties in with what I said previously. Oversharing on your social media can lead to you paying more attention to your cell phone – distracting you from what is happening on stage, or the keynote speaker. Being present is the greatest learning tool you have.
  • DON’T stress yourself out trying to do everything. Most conferences have workshops that you can attend. Many make you pick and choose what you want to attend. If you know what the workshops are before you arrive, think about what you need to work on and what skills you need to develop. If you don’t get the workshop list until you arrive, take 60 seconds to consider each one and what you will get out of it. When it comes time to register, you will know which workshops are suited for you!
  • DO enjoy and take care of yourself. Conferences can be stressful – most people don’t realize this. They take a lot of energy and sometimes it’s difficult to recharge and be refreshed for the next day. Make sure that you have fun and take some time to relax.

Conferences are a place where you can learn a lot about yourself. You don’t have to be a part of the planning committee or know every detail about what’s going to happen. It’s about being able to put aside the logistics and just participate – to feel, first hand, all of the emotions that come with what you’re doing.

More About Jack.org

Jack.org has 117 chapters in universities and colleges across Canada. Jack.orgMSVU has been an active chapter since 2015, hosting numerous initiatives promoting mental health. They plan to continue bringing this conversation forward to the community with tools they brought back from Jack Summit 2017.

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How exercise can help you throughout school http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/17/how-exercise-can-help-you-throughout-school/ Mon, 17 Apr 2017 10:59:35 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1535 Koko Davies

During high school, I noticed that my grades were influenced by how much I was playing sports and exercising. I played both soccer and rugby throughout the four years. There were only three months in the year where I was not going to practice every day after school, November to February and in this period, I noticed a change in my grades. Most people would assume that playing on a sports team would take a toll on your productivity in school. That is not always the truth. I found it easier to get up in the morning and go to school, my grades were higher and it was easier to pay attention in class during soccer and rugby season.

The results I experienced were not a fluke. Studies have shown that regular exercise improves sleep quality and researchers at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved with verbal memory and learning.

To test it out myself, I decided to do a test where I would monitor what time I fall asleep at each night. Over reading week I went to the gym Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. On the days, I went to the gym I fell asleep around midnight each night but on the Tuesday when I did not go to the gym I was awake until around 2:30 a.m. and I had a hard time waking up the next day. The other days I woke up around 9 a.m. and felt well rested.

Exercising and its benefits aren’t only for athletic people anyone can start living a healthier life if they choose to. There are many ways to exercise. Here are a few:

  • Try a new fitness class. The Mount Saint Vincent Fitness Center offers a variety of exercise classes such as yoga, cardio and Pilates. There are classes for beginners and those who are more experienced.
  • Most gyms offer training sessions for newcomers to learn how to exercise properly.
  • There are also free alternatives such as taking a walk in Point Pleasant Park.

According to the University of British Columbia study, improving memory requires 120 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days a week is the standard recommendation for healthy adults.

Many people struggle to find time to exercise. However, with strong time management skills, it is possible to find time to exercise most days. If you need help, MSVU Counselling Services  offer assistance with time management. Other useful ways to manage time are:

  1. Creating a schedule
  2. Having a routine and sticking to it
  3. Having someone holding you accountable (a gym partner & study partner)

Physical health and mental health have a connection. People with chronic physical conditions are at a risk of developing poor mental health and vice versa. Exercise has been proven to have many  mental health benefits  such as a profound positive impact on depression, anxiety and ADHD. Exercise also stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, growth of new blood vessels in the brain and the abundance and survival of the brain cells. The physical health benefits of exercise are huge as well. Some of the physical health benefits include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as preventing bone loss, reducing blood pressure and controlling weight.

All the mental and physical health benefits make exercise a positive influence on your every day and academic life, like it did for me.

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Stepping onto the ice and into my own http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/17/stepping-onto-the-ice-and-into-my-own/ http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/17/stepping-onto-the-ice-and-into-my-own/#comments Mon, 17 Apr 2017 10:59:24 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1539 Caley Chisholm

As a child I avoided embarrassment like the plague. The thought of feeling awkward, uncomfortable or insecure scared me. So like most fears, I buried them deep behind my cool exterior. Whenever these fears seemed to resurface, it felt like I had swallowed cotton. My face became engulfed in red heat and I would try desperately to blink tears away from my eyes. Nobody wants people to see them lose control over their emotions and become unintentionally vulnerable. I didn’t know about the power of vulnerability and it kept me engaging with my authentic self for many years.

Studies have shown that being vulnerable and allowing yourself to connect with others enables youth to have a positive personal identity. Starting with small acts of vulnerability is an easy way to adapt the practice into a habit.

Start practising with strangers. If you notice a new haircut on someone and it looks really nice, tell them! If a conversation steers towards an experience that you to have had, share your story! Tell someone how happy you are to have them in your life. Eventually sharing such small details will become second nature to you. Vocalizing your feelings regularly leads you to becoming more aware of them, thus allowing others to know more about you as well!

I recently decided to teach myself to skate. I avoided learning as a child because I didn’t want to fall in front of my peers. I allowed my fear of being vulnerable to hold me back from having fun as a kid but that wasn’t going to stop me anymore. I decided that since I was more confident in who I was as an individual, I might as well put myself out there and achieve something my younger self only dreamed of.

Like learning to be vulnerable, skating like a pro doesn’t happen overnight. I wasn’t going to deny that I would need help accomplishing this goal. I needed an Early Skating Learning Aid. A lot of people would have been embarrassed using one, but I had a goal and I wasn’t about to let perceived judgments from others stop me from doing something I wanted to do.

After a long week of trial and error, I finally managed to learn to skate. I felt more accomplished than I had in years and I realized it was because I had crossed the bridge of vulnerability and made it to my goal. I was elated and most of all I was proud that I had used my ability to be vulnerable to achieve something I had waited so long to do.

There is incredible happiness that comes with acknowledging your vulnerabilities. By allowing yourself to express your honest emotions, you gain control over them and you stop allowing others to have power over what you want to do. I have enforced my power over my vulnerabilities which disables anyone from using them against me, giving me the courage to follow my dreams. This has led me to enjoy life and be effortlessly happy. I no longer fear rejection or judgement because I know what I’m about and I know that at the end of the day nobody can make me feel anything that I am not comfortable with feeling.

Starting out small and being vulnerable in small scale situations that will eventually lead to long term positivity is the most fulfilling accomplishment in life. Learning how to allow yourself to be vulnerable doesn’t happen overnight but once you start practicing, it’s as easy as learning how to skate.

Photo Credit: V. Smolensky – Me using an Early Skating Learning Aid at the Halifax Oval Public Skate

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Join the symmetry team! http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/03/join-the-symmetry-team/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:02:47 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1525 Congratulations, you’ve almost made it through the semester! Here at Symmetry we’re already gearing up for another exciting year of creating, communicating and collaborating and we’re looking for two students to join our team for the 2017-2018 school year.

Are you interested in improving your writing and editing skills while collaborating with other students, faculty and professionals? Are you looking for a way to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom and help other students to do the same? If so, we are looking for two motivated public relations or communications students going into their second or third year to join our team as editors.

The editors’ main responsibilities are:

  • Writing and editing submissions for Symmetry
  • Recruiting and supporting student writers
  • Learning to use WordPress
  • Managing social media accounts to engage with readers and writers
  • Creating online and print promotional materials using Canva and/or Photoshop
  • Attending (virtual) team meetings

More information about Symmetry is available here.

If you’re interested in joining our team please email us the following:

  • A writing sample
  • A short explanation (approximately 200-350 words) about why you are interested in joining the editorial team and what you would like to accomplish

The application deadline is Monday, April 17, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. 

If you are interested in getting involved but are not able to commit to joining the team as an editor, don’t forget we are always looking for article submissions and anyone can contribute. We have one more submission deadline for this school year: Sunday, April 9, 2017 at 10 p.m.

If you have any questions about the position or the application process, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Your 2016-2017 editors,

Karlea, Raina, Emily & Anastasia

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Connecting in a Snap http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/03/connecting-in-a-snap/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:01:29 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1519 Ryan Critch   

Connecting with 3,500 students at one time can be extremely difficult. And even though Mount Saint Vincent University thrives on its tight knit community, getting the student body involved in everything the university has to offer isn’t easy. But the student union realized that if a picture is really worth a thousand words, why not use that picture to reach a thousand people?

The MSVU student union discovered that digital social media would be a useful tactic for reaching the student population. Instagram is a photo and video-sharing platform where users can post, like and comment on others’ photos. Snapchat is also a photo and video-sharing platform, but the content more timely, as the photo or video is only visible for a short time.

“It removes a lot of the foot soldiering that used to happen with print media,” says Kenny Fitzpatrick, general manager of the Mount Saint Vincent University Student Union. “You had the hope that people would be picking up your paper, and it was all about eyes. But now with digital social media there’s an engagement piece.”

Since the start of the New Year, Fitzpatrick has been using Snapchat and Instagram to increase foot traffic to events taking place around campus. He also uses these social media platforms to advertise products at the university snack bar, and says it is an effective marketing strategy.

“I didn’t think Snapchat would work,” says Fitzpatrick. “Until one day, I was set up in the link trying to give free things to students, which is difficult because they think you’re trying to sell them something and they just walk past and ignore you. But on this day I sent a mass Snapchat photo and all of a sudden I had 10 students in front of me.”

Todd Hoffman is the Food and Beverage Manager at the Mount, and says digital social media is a trendy way to attract business to the university’s snack bar and pub.

“Digital social media is cost-efficient,” says Hoffman. “The Crown n’ Go Snack Bar is a small business, and we don’t have a lot of room in our budget for advertising.”

Kyle Mackay is a first-year student at the Mount, and says he is very price conscious when purchasing food at school. But because of the student union’s new marketing strategy, he knows where he can purchase quality food products at a reasonable price.

“Thanks to the digital advertising by the Crow n’ Go, I can see what’s being offered and I know where I can stretch my dollar the furthest,” says Mackay. “And actually receive quality product in return.”

Hoffman feels Snapchat and Instagram are the most effective ways to connect with the diverse student population at the university. He says the student union needs to be on the same level of communication as the students.

“This is the way that students stay in the loop,” says Hoffman. “And if we’re not part of it, then we’re not a part of our students.”

Fitzpatrick and Hoffman work closely together as members of the student union, and both feel that the use of digital social media is a step in the right direction when connecting with students.

“It has been working for us,” says Fitzpatrick. “However, it is important that we keep track of it and continue to be innovative.”

If you want to connect with the MSVU student union, follow them on Snapchat (msvusu) and Instagram (@msvusu).

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Student debt is a problem but the national debt is even worse http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/04/03/student-debt-is-a-problem-but-the-national-debt-is-even-worse/ Mon, 03 Apr 2017 10:00:14 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1515 William Burns

After four years you finally graduate. You’ve had your fill of mac n’ cheese and over-priced textbooks. Now you’re facing $27,000 in student loans. You aren’t alone, but there’s more bad news. Your share of the national debt is more than $17,000. Unfortunately, the federal government is paying more servicing the national debt than it is on the entire national defense budget. How can the government help students with their debts when it can’t keep up with its own debt? With increased deficit spending, the national debt level is spiralling out of control.

University is an investment. We may take 10 years to pay back our student loans, but at least we will move into higher paying jobs than those without degrees. One day we will escape our student debt, but no matter how hard we work, we will never escape the national debt. Ten cents of every tax dollar goes toward paying back the federal government’s debt. According to the Department of Finance, the federal budget in 2013-2014 spent over $28 billion on debt but only spent $12.3 billion on funding for post-secondary education. This number declined from its peak in 2010-2011 of $12.8 billion.

Government support for Canadians will likely be decreasing as national debt spirals out of control. Interest payments will soon be too much to handle. Under the current spending pattern of the federal government, the annual interest payment towards the national debt in 15 years will be over $50 Billion. Interim Opposition Leader, Rona Ambrose calculated that with this money the government could “Fund the entire annual provincial budget for Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut COMBINED.”

Although student debt levels are in crisis, the good news is that in 15 years we are expected to pay them off. In that time the government will have nearly doubled its annual debt payments. So what will be more expensive for students? Our short-term debt or our national debt? If the current debt levels are expending over 10% of our taxes, when the debt doubles, that will mean either our taxes will increase or we will see less money allotted to healthcare and education. This out of control debt caused by increased government spending is a crisis. It will consume the national budget and force us all to pay more in taxes or receive less in services. Student debt may hold us down, but the national debt will bury us.

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The five best study spaces in Halifax http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/03/20/the-five-best-study-spaces-in-halifax/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:01:12 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1492 Emma Colson

Cram time — the time of year every university student is all too familiar with and will never look forward to.  We are coming onto the end of the semester where all of the projects, tests, and presentations seem to be never-ending. We are always searching for the ideal, quiet spot to study.

On campus, you can spend over five hours in the library and still feel as if you’ve achieved nothing. It’s sometimes due to the fact that on small campuses, you know everyone and can’t help but chat, or simply due to the slow library Internet and horrible lighting has been all too distracting. The key to better focus is a new, better study space.

All five of these coffee shops have exactly what you need for you to change up your studying environment, see some unfamiliar faces, and have a cup of coffee that isn’t in a cardboard cup.

  1. Bedford Basin Café – 397 Bedford Highway

Mount students, take advantage of this quaint spacious cafe minutes from the MSVU campus. This café offers a rustic, modern atmosphere with a large menu of house made sandwiches, soups, and delicious desserts. The only distraction here will be the breathtaking views of the Bedford Basin.

  1. Seven Bays Bouldering – 2019 Gottingen St.

Burn off some pre-exam stress and try out the bouldering wall for a quick study break. Seven Bays not only offers a wide variety of amazing specialty drinks but also an amazing study atmosphere. When you’re finished, there’s craft beer.

  1. Weird Harbour -1656 Barrington St.

Weird Harbour is a new addition to Halifax’s locally owned cafes. If you’re looking for a quick dose of caffeine, this espresso joint is ideal for you. Their bright, cozy, and quaint space makes for a perfect, productive afternoon.

  1. The Wired Monk – 5147 Morris St.

According to their website, the Wired Monk is a Pacific West concept moulded with a European flare. The café has floor to ceiling windows, and a cozy fireplace is the perfect place to sit and get through that painful textbook. The café offers a large variety of sweets, speciality salads, and a rustic feel.  The Wired Monk is a hidden gem near the waterfront

  1. Smiling Goat Organic Espresso Bar – 1475 Lower Water St. / 5466 Spring Garden Rd. / 1551 South Park St.

With one location on the Halifax boardwalk, the Smiling Goat provides a beach-like atmosphere for those who love the water. Providing three locations in Halifax, this café is accessible from nearly any bus route. Small shops, quiet relaxing music, and hot, fresh, local coffee. Need I say more?

What’s your favourite study space in Halifax?

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Country mouse becomes big city mouse: Why moving makes sense http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/03/20/country-mouse-becomes-big-city-mouse-why-moving-makes-sense/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:00:47 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1496 Payton Conrad

Imagine driving down backcountry roads in an old 1993 black Ford F-150 purposely getting stuck in the mud to embrace the rush and excitement of trying to get out. You climb up and down a partially made trail to end up at a beautiful waterfall, and swim in nature’s amazing creations to clean off all of the mud. You end the day by the blazing hot campfire laughing and singing with your closest friends. This was my life in Sussex N.B. and I loved it. Then, I moved to Halifax.

You may be wondering – why move somewhere new when you could stay in the comfort of your hometown? You may never know the answer until you step out of your comfort zone yourself. When you go for a co-op placement, or if you graduating soon, you should expand your horizons while searching for a potential career. Branch out and move away from where you now call home.

Here are five tips I have learned on my journey:

  1. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you

The jitters, the butterflies in your stomach and the last minute second-guessing of your choice to move are normal. It’s okay to be nervous to move to a place you have never lived before, especially if you are doing it on your own. This does not mean you should change your mind and stay in your comfort zone. Emma Lord from Bustle.com tells us that if you are experiencing any of these 13 signs you are already ready for a fresh start. You never know what adventure awaits you until you overcome the nerves and just do it.

  1. Find a place that interests you

Do not pick a place at random. Do your research and find a place that is compatible with your personal interests. I wanted to get the big city feel without going too far from home (a three hour is more than enough for me). I wanted to live somewhere that I could walk places when I desired, which is why I chose Halifax. It will make moving a lot easier if you have activities and pastimes such as going to the gym, taking paint classes or following the local sports teams to keep you busy along with working. Putting yourself out there and getting involved in these activities can be scary but it will be a big help in finding friends that could potentially become your forever friends.

  1. Get excited

It is common to stress over having to move. Packing your things, finding a place to live, unpacking and organizing are all stressful aspects of moving that discourage people from making the move. I’m not going to sugar coat it: these tasks are a burden. What if you do not like where you have moved to and you have to do this all over again to move home? Stop worrying about what can go wrong, and focus on what can go right. Get excited! Negativity will not get you anywhere. You have to keep positive vibes and be open-minded or it will be difficult for you to embrace the new opportunities that come your way. Set yourself up for success.

  1. Call home

Moving does not mean you have to cut off ties from home. It is good for you to know what is going on, and to keep in contact with your family and friends. Luckily there are things like FaceTime and Skype to make your communicating home easy and free. You do not have to lose old friends to make new ones.

  1. Live in the moment

Not everyone gets the opportunity to be apart of a co-op program, or a chance to move after they graduate to make new memories and experience new parts of the world. This could be your only opportunity so live in the moment!

Moving was the best decision I have made for myself. I thought I knew who I was as a person and I thought I had my life already figured out. Moving helped me realize that if my life were art, it would be finger painting – messy, but colourful. Now I have more ambition and self-knowledge to get myself to where I want to be.

Walking along the Halifax waterfront savoring a cinnamon sugar beaver tail, smelling the ocean water, and hearing the waves crash as the boats approach the dock… my senses tell me that I have found my second home.

 

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Four things I learned volunteering in a developing country http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/2017/03/20/four-things-i-learned-volunteering-in-a-developing-country/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 10:00:13 +0000 http://symmetrypublicrelations.com/?p=1508 Lauren Goerz

It’s early afternoon and the hot sun is beating down on me as I walk through a community in rural Kabwe, Zambia. I’m on my way to the home of a new friend, a fellow volunteer I’ve gotten to know over the last two weeks. I am travelling with Rock Church Ministries  to assist a small organization, Together in Action. We’ve have been helping their volunteers on home visits and running several day camps for children in surrounding villages. I enter my new friend’s home, humbled by how I am treated. I went to Zambia to help encourage and support volunteers. I didn’t expect, I’d be the honoured guest of a feast like dinner.

My experience travelling to Zambia, Africa, almost three years ago now, taught me a lot. Here are four ways Zambia changed me.

  1. I became flexible and developed new skills.

When you volunteer, you are often required to work in a team. You may work with people you don’t know, people from different cultures and of different ages. This can be challenging enough in your own back yard. To volunteer in a country other than your own can make things all the more challenging, and rewarding.

While in Zambia, I had to get use to the cultural beliefs, habits and daily routines of the people I was working with.  For example, some Zambian people aren’t used to paying a lot of attention to the time, which was difficult for me to get used to.

There was also a language barrier which provided me with the opportunity to develop new non-verbal communication skills. I learned about teamwork, leadership and interpersonal communication.

  1. I learned to make do.

Volunteer trips are often coordinated by, or partnered with, not-for-profit organizations. Before traveling abroad I never thought about the different challenges a not-for-profit in a developing country would face versus the not-for-profits at home.  At home comfy desk chairs, water coolers and office kitchens are viewed as essential details in a work environment. An organization working to make ends meet would see such things as luxuries and consider them a big deal to have.

  1. I had experiences that I can take in my PR career.

I heard the best stories in Zambia from hard working people. Now I have my own tell. I was able to visit schools in rural communities and bring desperately needed school supplies. Things such as this will educate a community. I was able to see a corn mill and pig farm that my church’s donations helped to build. This makes an entire community self-sustainable.  I will take these experiences into my public relations career, where I’ll continue to build relationships, listen and tell stories.

  1. I gained a greater appreciation for my life.

In Zambia, many of the people, families, organizations had to work with hardly anything. Their dedication and resourcefulness taught me how to value. I came home in complete awe of what I have. Even the simplest things now seem large, such as a building with proper electricity, or a house with many rooms and floors.

I had no idea making a difference in someone’s life would also make a huge difference in mine. I encourage anyone who is able to volunteer in another culture. Here is a small list of organizations who are always looking for someone to add to the team:

  1. Global Vision International
  2. Maximo Nivel
  3. SHE Rescue Home

You won’t change the whole world in one trip. Volunteering doesn’t make you a superhero, but an experience like this could not only make a difference in someone else’s world, but yours too.

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