How volunteering can change the direction of your career

Career and experiential learning 
Community engagement

By Community Engagement

Career Developement and Experiential Learning, uOttawa

student holding a book
Learn how volunteering can help you discover your dream career through Shaylin's experience as first-year student majoring in human kinetics.

Community service learning, or CSL for short, is an experiential learning program and one of the best ways to simultaneously gain work experience, support the community, and earn course credits. When students participate in CSL, they are expected to actively and strategically reflect on their volunteer experience to improve their knowledge of their field of study and their civic engagement. 

Shaylin Liu, a first-year student majoring in human kinetics, was matched with a CSL placement in the fall of 2022. As part of a course in Leisure Studies, she joined a team of teachers at Holy Trinity High School in Ottawa for a whole term. Shaylin volunteered as a teaching assistant who helped other teachers deliver the course. She also supported students, and even took on some office-related responsibilities. She chose to find her own placement and work in the same high school that she had graduated from the year before; her knowledge of the school and the academic environment made her comfortable enough to dive into teaching and to figure out whether there was anything for her in that field. She also understood the expectations and how to truly assist the students since she had recently interacted with other volunteer teaching assistants while she was in high school herself.

According to Shaylin, the beginning of her volunteer placement was a bit weird: she had to start calling her former teachers by their first names instead of by their titles, i.e., Mr. or Ms., as she had when she was attending the school.


“Sometimes I have lunch with my [former] teachers, and it’s interesting to hear them talk about their families, since I have known them as my teachers for a long time.”

Shaylin Liu

Helping others and sharing her knowledge with younger generations gave Shaylin a feeling of accomplishment and taught her more about herself; she realized she was better with kids than she had thought. It also helped her brush up on French, her second language, and she reviewed basic language rules, something that she usually would not have thought of doing. Shaylin described how her volunteer experience made her realize that she might want to change career paths and that she could seriously consider switching programs from learning about bones and muscles to learning how to teach French as a second language.

After completing her volunteer placement with Holy Trinity High School, Shaylin would like to volunteer with other educational organizations or with other agencies in which she could help support the community. Shaylin said that she is not only interested in teaching and helping students, but also wants to assist in helping homeless people. She is planning to join clubs and associations at the University of Ottawa to do so. She also believes that students should be more open to taking on a CSL placement: even though the 30-hour requirement may seem daunting at first, it can be very feasibly managed since it can be spread out over the whole term.


“There are always doubts when entering such an experience, but a student should always dive into things they are interested in because it can be the first step in a life-changing decision.”

Shaylin Liu

For more information about Community Engagement programs at the University of Ottawa, click here.

To read more about volunteering stories, click here.