The Silver Lining of Missing Out

5149283023_2f41929ebaI believe there’s already a post geared towards the benefits of volunteering, but since that’s what I’ve been doing during my French classes, it doesn’t hurt for me to talk about my own experiences.

But before I get into the bulk of this post, I’d like to publicly admit that intensive courses are hard.

I don’t mean intensive like the ones most degree students are taking e.g. 3 hours a week, no, I mean the intensive language course I’m taking that requires me to think, speak, read, and write in French for more than 25 hours (if you include the homework and projects) a week. And you know what I’ve discovered about French? It’s one of the most beautiful languages (already knew it, actually), but it’s HARD. Grammatically, vocabularily (not a word, I know), French has concepts that don’t even exist in English. There’s nothing harder than to be introduced to a concept that literally does not have even a similar concept. Subjonctif? Doesn’t exist in English. “Genres” of words? I don’t know who came up with a chair being female and a notebook being male, but there it is.

I felt like my brain exploded today, because our class got fed two huge concepts obviously extremely important to the language. The worst part is, francophones use these all the time. I can hardly write a simple sentence like “the brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” (this is not simple), let alone change the conjugation of the verb “jump”. Oh right, conjugation. What even is it?

I realize this makes me sound like I just started learning French, so maybe I kind of am. I have a good foundation, but it still sometimes makes my brain hurt to think of simply how to write a sentence. A normal, non-creative, non-fancy sentence. And so, I will publicly announce here and now that I believe French is harder to learn than English.

Apart from killing my brain with words, I’ve also been volunteering at the Atwater Public Library, and the Animal Rescue Network. I chose to volunteer instead of work, because having a 9-3 school schedule Monday-Friday means it’s almost impossible for me to have a day job, unless I choose to work on the weekends at a service job, for which I unfortunately have no experience in.

The greatest part of volunteering is that employers are usually more lenient on the application process, and you get to contribute to (hopefully) society, while adding valuable experience to your CV. Of course, not all volunteer jobs you do in your life may be useful for the specific career you hope to obtain, and that’s where my story comes in.

Clearly I volunteered for the Atwater Public Library to gain experience in the field of librarianship, and also to beef up my CV to let the Masters of Information Studies application committee know that I do have some knowledge of how a library works. That I’m working at the front desk also means that I can classify it as a customer service job, which I mentioned above that I have no experience in. What do they say, kill two birds with one stone?

But what about the Animal Rescue Network? Originally my idea was to work with the actual animals, in this case, cats, because (as I found out), the Animal Rescue Network takes care of only cats, and there are around 250 of them living at the shelter. I absolutely love cats. They are my favourite animal. Lame, I know. But they are. I would be a cat if I could, because they literally sleep 20 hours a day. So my idea was to volunteer to be on the medical team, and it was just purely for my love of animals and cats that I wanted to help. In terms of adding something to my librarian CV, it really wouldn’t have been much, except for that I didn’t get the position because of my incredibly ironic stupid cat allergy. I even had cats before, when I wasn’t allergic, and then one day, BAM, something in my DNA triggered and I was allergic to cats. I swear to this day that the cat gods were punishing me. What did I do, love cats too much?

So, I couldn’t help out with the cats. To clarify though, it wasn’t that they wouldn’t let me, it was that when I spent only 5 minutes taking a tour of the cat area, I felt like I was going to die from a subtle and slow asthma attack. I love cats, but I wasn’t going to let them kill me at the ripe age of 21. Thankfully, I had mentioned on my application that I had job/volunteering skills in general administrative work, and that was what my interviewer asked me about. I told her that I have always loved organizing and I have the skills, and that if I couldn’t help out with the cats now, I could later, and in the meantime help out at least with the shelter by doing data entry and tax receipts, and anything else admin-related. I can now add this to my CV, even though it was going to be a purely-for-pleasure experience originally.

So my advice to you, is that when it comes to job searches or volunteering, always try to find the silver lining. It sounds terribly cliché, but that’s what happened with me: I looked for another way to continue volunteering, which actually gave me something useful for my CV. And now that I’ll be starting allergen immunotherapy for my cat allergy, I will hopefully soon be able to say hello to the 250 furry friends upstairs.

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