Ioana Dobrău: How to make time for university and volunteering

Psychology student and President of the biggest international youth organization, Ioana Dobrău tells us about her life-changing volunteering experience.

Finishing high school in a small town and arriving in Cluj, Ioana really wanted to do something ” that had an impact on the world in one way or another ‘’, to feel useful and to do cool things with other people. So 3 years and 2 months ago, she decided, thanks to other people`s recommendation, to become a volunteer in AIESEC, although she didn`t really had much volunteering experience.

‘’First I had my Induction period (training period) with a team, for one month and a half and it was very, very nice. And this made me stay. We simply got into a really nice team and we went out every evening and did things together. We took interviews, attended conferences and saw all kind of interesting people who made me realize that AIESEC is really big and there are a lot of things I can learn.’’ Ioana remembers fondly her first experience in the organization.

To her, AIESEC is the perfect combination of work and fun, the place where you have both social interaction and the chance to meet and easily connect with people from all around the world.  Through these connections she had the opportunity to travel and visit other countries basically for free because where ever she went she knew a volunteer from that country. ” That’s what I love the most about AIESEC, the fact that you feel that you are part of something much bigger, because it’s an international organization. For example, I may not know all the people from AIESEC in China but I know that we have much in common and that we have the same abbreviations, the same interests. I feel I have much more in common with an AIESEC-er (person from AIESEC), no matter from where he or she is from, than someone else from the same city I am in, but different interests.

Now, 3 years and 2 months later, after she applied, she could not imagine her student life without AIESEC. ”It would have been much more boring, and probably I would have tried to do other things, such as getting involved in other organizations, going out in the clubs, trying to make friends etc., but it would not have been the same, just because I wouldn`t have had that connection. ”

She told us that the best experience she had during her volunteering time, it was at the biggest AIESEC Conference, The International Congress in Warsaw, where more than 800 volunteers from 114 countries gathered together. Here, she made new friends, reconnected with people she was working with in the previous years, participated in various sessions, and for her it was ‘like a little metaphor for a whole planet, because we were all so different yet so similar. ”

Besides all these good things that she told us with twinkling eyes and smiling, Ioana was faced with difficult times. For example, when she applied for being the president of the organization, it was her final year of college and had a bachelor thesis to work on, which was quite difficult for her.

”I knew when I applied to be the president of the organization that I would have my bachelor`s thesis and that, was one of the reasons that made me think. I thought maybe it would be more normal and smarter from my side, not to do both things at the same time, to focus only on one because I also liked the faculty of psychology which I was attending.  I knew it would be two really big things to do at the same time and I knew I couldn’t have interrupted my mandate for a week, or two, to write my thesis, so I had to work on both of them every day.  I realized that I can do them both. I would have used this as an excuse for not applying, because indeed it`s difficult, but not impossible. There are people who do 10 times more things per day. So it was about managing my time, and giving up other stuff. It was not easy. After I took my bachelor`s degree, I felt that if I can do this, I can do anything. ”

Besides her bachelor`s thesis, she encountered other difficulties during her mandate, such as: people giving up volunteering because they can`t see the relevance of it, maintaining balance between work, responsibility and fun etc. The biggest challenge for her was ‘communicating with people and making different people with different personalities and perspectives to come and work together for the same thing.’

Volunteering and AIESEC ‘’mean a lot in this moment. Meaning that here I spend most of my time and it is the perfect combination between work and friends. I would like to have the opportunity to do this all my life, helping to make the world a better place while having the right people around me. So it is the perfect combination between making an impact and being happy while doing it.’’

However her volunteering experience does not end in Cluj.  After finishing her mandate in the local board from Cluj-Napoca, she plans to apply for the national board of Romania in order to continue what she began here. Ioana urges all students to do volunteering. ‘’I think it`s very important, because volunteer work is the type of work through which people who do it, want to make the world a better place and help others, which is extremely important.  If today, all the volunteers would disappear from the planet it would have a really big impact. I mean there must always be a balance, and the volunteers are somehow that group of good people who do not do it for profit. I would like to live in a world where all students do this.’’

After all the things she learned, the difficulties she went through, the experiences she had, Ioana`s advice for the other students is ‘’ to think about what they want to do in life and no matter what, to go get it. Because we only live once and because it`s not worth not doing things because of fear. It’s normal to be afraid but at the same time no matter what we do or we do not do, it should not be based on fear. It must be based on what we want to do and always strive toward what makes us happy. ”

Finally, she revealed us, that this experience changed her a lot, made her braver, happier and satisfied of her everyday life, gave her a sharper directive in life and she found the thing she likes to do, that it is worth waking up happy every morning for.

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This post is also available in: Romanian

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