This post is also available in: polski (Polish)
Volunteering connects diverse people because helps us to break out of the comfort zone. This is always the beginning of the adventure with the community but also with ourselves.
Xiaojian Zheng (Jennifer) came to Galway from China. She is a postgraduate student of Public Advocacy and Activism at NUIG. And she is going to do PhD in sociology, as well.
Xiaojian is also a vlogger on a Chinese social platform with 40,000 followers. She likes to make videos about culture and food and share her feelings with others.
Noticing the little things
Her videos that perfectly capture the Galway atmosphere simply charmed me. How in the short video can fit many details from the ordinary day? Hit songs by Galway Buskers on the Shop Street, intertwine with fragrant food. Rough Corrib river sparkles in the sun, but the dark brown Guinness stays unshakable. Even well-known shelves from the local store Centra seems very interesting. And the city bus takes us to places that are not in the guide. We can also get off by the Atlantic where a doggie is waiting because he wants to play.
These documentaries brought me a lot of joy in rainy December day and took me to the walk from a different perspective in the city that I know.
Shooting short videos is really my passion. Before I came to Ireland, I worked in China for Hollywood film marketing. Since then, I have enjoyed making short films to record the food and interesting culture I found. After coming to Galway, I also continued to shoot some videos.
The volunteering full of fun and challenges makes me no longer lonely abroad
Because volunteering is a job that helps build a wonderful community and enriches the personal experience.
What motivated you to become a Wave Maker with Galway 2020?
When I came to Galway last year, I was attracted by its charming cultural atmosphere. Galway 2020 planned to hold hundreds of activities on art and culture. This was a great opportunity for me to have close contact with art creators and be a part of their artistic projects. Also I have a strong interest in Atlantic and Irish culture represented by Galway. Magnificent sea views, historic buildings, and the free-flowing music of the Buskers, all make this city charming and unique. Being Wave Maker with Galway 2020 is my first experience in volunteering.
What does volunteering give to you?
First of all, volunteering gives me opportunities to come into contact with many interesting people and things. These rich experiences made me know more about the history and culture of Galway, and finally, I chose to stay in NUIG to do a PhD. Secondly, volunteering helps me break out of my comfort zone. In order to complete my volunteer work, I had to ask myself to initiate conversations with strangers. This not only increased my confidence but also made me meet many new friends. The volunteering full of fun and challenges makes me no longer lonely in my study abroad life in Galway.
What you can give to others through volunteering?
While this gives me a meaningful experience, I also became a giver. As the president of NUIG Chinese Society, I promoted Galway 2020 activities to all Chinese students through the society. I had created a Galway 2020 Chinese volunteer group on social media to help Chinese students better participate in volunteer activities.
I have been working to help Chinese students integrate into the local culture of Galway by organizing interesting activities. For example, the Chinese New Year Gala held by our society last February invited more than 300 audiences to attend.
What was your favourite project in Galway 2020?
My favourite project in Galway 2020 was the Opening Show of Galway 2020. In preparation for this grand event, I participated in the training many times. In this activity, each volunteer could became a part of artistic creation. We learned all kinds of musical instruments and also singing. How amazing it is when the group of strangers can get together and accomplish a great thing! Although the opening ceremony has been canceled because of the weather, it still remains the best experience for me.
*About the official opening ceremony of ECOC in Galway which has been canceled but brought great things, I wrote here.
Did you have some special moments in volunteering which you will remember for the rest of your life?
My most impressive activity was the volunteering traning of Galway 2020. The professionalism of the team provided a warm welcome for me as a newcomer, and made me full of curiosity and satisfaction when I participated in volunteering for the first time in my life.
What is the culture for you?
For me, culture is a symbol of identity. It helps us both to know ourselves and to know others. As an identity symbol, culture can not only distinguish groups but also help our communities to build cohesion through its mobility and adaptability.
What does mean to share your language culture with other volunteers?
As an Asian, I am born with a unique cultural identity that can help Galway locals get in touch with more diverse cultures. Cultural diversity not only makes Galway a more welcoming city but also gives its residents greater satisfaction of life.
What do you think about this post? How do you break out of your comfort zone?