National Student Volunteer Week (#NSVW) celebrates student volunteers and promotes volunteering to students and young people across Australia.

The theme for 2023 is Give. Grow. Belong taps into a generation who are more socially conscious than ever before.  Rather than stand idly by, students around Australia are committed to getting involved with causes they believe in and to contribute to positive change.

Volunteering can expand your horizons in many exciting ways – and international student Shawn Woo couldn’t agree more. Discover his story as he shares some of the valuable experiences, lessons, and skills he has gained throughout his volunteering journey. 

From driving innovation to embracing new technologies, student volunteers have a lot to give to the sector. Simultaneously, they also have a lot to gain, such as picking up new skills, expanding social networks, and creating pathways to employment.

Our interview with Shawn is a shining example of this duality, highlighting the personal rewards that come from helping the community. During this insightful interview, Shawn discusses how volunteering has helped him recognise the power of proactive leadership and the importance of seizing opportunities.

This interview has been released as part of National Student Volunteer Week (#NSVW) in celebrating this year’s theme of Give. Grow. Belong. If you haven’t already, take a look at our other stories with Laila Alves and Afra Azzahra.


Full interview with Shawn Woo

Facilitated by Sojen Pradhan, AusLEAP 

Tell us about the organisation you volunteer with.

I volunteer with ACS (Australian Computer Society), a professional association that represents and advocates for the Information and Communication Technology industry. Working with a team of 15 students and professionals, we plan events aimed at providing educational and career assistance to young IT professionals.

I have also previously provided technical support volunteering at Get2know (for a couple of months), and one-day volunteering events for Foodbank and Clean up Australia.

Why did you choose to volunteer?

As an international student who is looking for my first IT job in Australia, the event we’re currently planning is very relevant to me. It helps me understand what roles for young IT professionals and students are available. It’s also helpful to get together and brainstorm ideas.

How did you get involved in volunteering?

I got involved with Get2know when they approached AusLEAP Program at University of Technology Sydney, for support from students with IT skills. Initially, I only planned to attend the first briefing session. However, the day after Mr. Madhu (the leader of Get2know) personally contacted me to help facilitate the second meeting. I accepted the offer, because I recognised it as an opportunity to step forward and apply the leadership skills I had acquired through AusLEAP.

In preparation for the second meeting, I checked the available classrooms at UTS and, after obtaining permission to use them, I contacted everyone on the list of students attending. During this meeting, I assisted Mr. Madhu in assessing each student’s IT skills and helped to form teams accordingly. Throughout this planning, I had the chance to put into practice the principles of proactive leadership that AusLEAP had instilled in me.

For my volunteering at ACS, I got involved through a group introduction at AusLEAP. After the session, I decided to take action. When I got home, I searched for the presenter’s email on the ACS website and reached out to him, expressing how nice it was to meet him, while mentioning my interest in participating in volunteer work with ACS. A few days later, he replied and connected me with the person in charge. ACS expressed interest in having me participate in volunteer work a few months down the line, specifically for an event in September.

The reason behind my proactive approach can be attributed to my involvement in volunteer activities and leadership education through AusLEAP.

What do you get out of volunteering?

I’ve been learning communication skills, brainstorming with others, gaining experience, and meeting good people in the industry. I’m also given lots of opportunities to speak and share my opinion.

Have you faced any challenges to volunteering or within your volunteer role?

As an international student, at times I have difficulties communicating in English, but I’m working on it. Everyone in the group understands that and tries to help me.

I also work through these challenges myself, by trying hard and focusing to understand each meeting, and trying to catch up with notes and presentation materials after meetings.


Learn more

About AusLEAP

AusLEAP is a program that connects international students in NSW with local, established community, charity, not-for-profit, and social enterprise organisations to undertake training and volunteering opportunities. It was launched in February 2022 with support from the Study NSW Partner project.

Last year, AusLEAP 2022 worked with over 34 partners including leading educational institutions in NSW (8 universities, 4 colleges and 3 associations, 2 social enterprises and 1 student agency), business, government, and community groups (16 community organisations) to facilitate the volunteering opportunities for international students. Through this process, international students had the opportunity to be part of the local community, understand the culture, way of working in Australia and contribute to social impact through community organisations.

To learn more about this program, visit their website.

Highlights of AusLEAP 2023 can be viewed here.

Logo for AusLEAP