The UB Honors College is an interesting beast. Every incoming freshman in the Honors College is required to take a one-credit course called Colloquium, which is a reading- and discussion-based class about “service-learning” (a.k.a. education through volunteer work). It is a massive pain in the rear to most of the freshman, especially those who are new to Buffalo, or those who are particularly busy, or those who literally have no form of transportation at their disposal. Colloquium was a class that was laughed off by my peers and I as something that (1) didn’t require much effort, and (2) didn’t really have any legitimate impact on our lives. We were required to complete 25 to 30 hours of community service over the course of the semester, at an assigned location, no questions asked. It was a pretty unnerving experience but most of us lived through it, and I’ll admit that it made me a lot more comfortable with the idea of actually leaving the UB campus.
The Honors College gave off this impression of being absolutely obsessed with improving the situation of the nearly-hopeless city of Buffalo. Buffalo is poverty-stricken, abandoned in places, crime-ridden, has an incredibly incapable education system, and is generally a mess in many other ways. It has a rich but vastly under-appreciated history, and the Honors College seemed to have the fanciful and far-fetched idea that they could convince every year’s new recruits to take up its cause.
Well, they got me. It was really difficult to see at first, but the more time and effort that I’ve put into working in, volunteering with, and appreciating Buffalo (by my own choice or others’), the more I’ve come to see this city as worth it.
I’ve had a volunteering project for every semester so far. I spent my first semester volunteering at the Valley Community Center, in their after-school program for local students who can’t go directly home after leaving school for the day (this experience was through Colloquium). The second semester of my freshman year, I took an Honors seminar class that sent me to a Buffalo high school as a volunteer (where I am now a paid intern), which was organized by another service-learning seminar that I took by choice. This year, I have spent both semesters volunteering at the Friends of Night People soup kitchen (through the Greiner Shared Interest Housing program organized by the Honors College), which is also accompanied by a small class and I get to live in Greiner Hall with the other students in this program.
Before college, I never really saw myself as someone who would invest her time in volunteer work, let alone enjoy it. I think that has changed though, and I’m guessing that I’ll be finding different ways to incorporate it into next semester if possible, even though I won’t actually be required to.
I’m excited to be coming home this week!
Lots of love,