Empowerment through Volunteering: An Interview with Eva Ang

Empowerment through Volunteering: An Interview with Eva Ang

By: Queenie Lei
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Eva Ang is an undergraduate student studying Biomedical Physiology at SFU. During the past two semesters, Eva Ang has been the Volunteer Coordinator for the 2017 Sustainable Communities Conference and is currently the Events and Marketing Assistant for 2018 Burnaby Festival of Learning. Throughout her interview, Eva Ang emphasizes the importance of not being afraid to pursue volunteering opportunities as some of the best experiences are the opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone and that they can lead to other opportunities in the future. Yet at the same time, while gaining valuable experience is vital to self-development, it is also important to remain open-minded and having flexibility.

1. To begin, tell me a bit about yourself.

Hello! My name is Eva and I am currently a 3rd year Biomedical Physiology student. I am also pursuing a certificate in Health and Fitness Studies. During my spare time, I actively volunteer on campus. I’ve previously volunteered as a Welcome Leader, Science FROSH Leader, Volunteer Coordinator, and multiple assistant roles in various clubs. Most recently, I worked as an Events and Marketing Assistant for the Office of Community Engagement. Currently, I am a Student Tour Guide for Student Central. Volunteering has been an integral part of my undergraduate career and has allowed me to explore different opportunities, one of which includes meeting a bunch of awesome new friends! Aside from school, I love to blog about food. If you see me on campus, definitely do not be shocked that I am holding a cup of matcha latte because that’s my go-to caffeinated beverage.

2. You are studying Health Sciences but have been very active in event planning. Do you have an interest in combining these areas of interest once you graduate?

Funny story, I’m actually not a Health Sciences major but people do get confused with what I study. I occasionally get responses like you look like a Sciences or Health Sciences major, or even the rare Business or Communication major. And most definitely, I am interested in combining these areas into the scientific field in which I find is innovative and creative. Transferrable skills like event planning and the knowledge obtained from relevant courses are very beneficial when organizing different aspects to a research project, for example.

3. What are your plans after graduation?

As shocking as this may sound, I’m not fully sure. People tend to ask me this question and I generally shrug my shoulders. There are endless opportunities out there and I am hopeful that there will be one in which interests me. I am debating between attending graduate school to get my MSc, working, or travelling. The third option is probably the best one since I haven’t travelled in years! All jokes aside, an ambitious goal of mine is to become a researcher and professor as I enjoy working with children and teaching. Maybe I’ll share my knowledge for Biomedical Physiology with younger children someday.

4. You're volunteering with a few major events at SFU such as the 2017 Sustainable Communities Conference and the 2018 Burnaby Festival of Learning. Can you tell us a bit about the events and how you got involved?

To get started, back in first and second year, I volunteered in various programs that ran programs with a focus on food recovery. I was highly inspired by both Embark Sustainability and Enactus SFU and was interested in learning more about food wastage. My passion for food now also encompasses the topic of food wastage. Fast forward to last July, I saw a posting that the Sustainable Communities Conference Committee was hiring executive positions and I decided to challenge myself and apply. I loved volunteering and had passion for sustainable changes, so I applied for position as a Volunteer Coordinator. This event was a student-led conference whose mission is to inspire and educate students about the different United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). The conference included workshop, discussions, and mingling sessions for students to chat with dignitaries, panelist speakers, and representatives from non-profit organizations (NGOs). There were also simulations and interactive workshops for students to really brainstorm and discuss about many of the real-world problems and devise potential solutions. My role was to manage volunteer recruitment and training, kind of like a Human Resources personnel.

Now moving onto Burnaby Festival of Learning, I stumbled across a volunteer posting back in 2017 and first started out as a volunteer for the event. Like the role of the Volunteer Coordinator, my position as an Events and Marketing Assistant was to recruit and train volunteers for SFU Exploration Day. In addition, I also got to plan many aspects of the event. Sounds fun, right? Burnaby Festival of Learning is a free, one-week long event that offers free workshops in celebration for lifelong learning. SFU Exploration Day was one of the events offered, specifically for high school students within SD41. This event had all 8 SFU faculties participating, with a good spectrum of seminars available. From the hands-on biology dissections to a more sophisticated approach in understanding language, SFU Exploration Day offered series of workshops in hopes of inspiring youth to explore different areas of study. Both these experiences were amazing as I’ve gotten to develop my event planning skills, time management, and organizational skills. And you might be curious, how did I really get involved with this position? It turns out that a coordinator of mine who was one of the SFU staff mentors from Sustainable Communities Conference recommended this position to me. It’s funny how the world works sometimes.

5. Do you have any advice for students who are just starting out and are considering volunteering at SFU?

Don’t be afraid to try! Start small and work your way up. In my first year at SFU, it was daunting to put myself out there to volunteer. As I got out of my comfort zone and talked to my fellow classmates during each volunteer opportunity, I was no longer afraid to initiative conversations. A great resource that I use daily is myinvolvement and myexperience; these are SFU websites that lists short-term and long-term opportunities. I started signing up for various event roles from these sites and after a year or so, leadership roles became more manageable and served as great learning opportunities. There’s so many opportunities out there and reaching out is definitely the first step towards success. I highly recommend utilizing all the available resources

available on campus like Volunteer and Career Services or even scrolling past the clubs and student union portal from SFSS because it’s in your advantage to use it.

6. With the amount of time spent on volunteering, how do you organize your time to juggle multiple extracurricular activities? Do you have any special techniques for staying on track?

Unfortunately, I wished I had some superpowers that would allow me to stop time or extend the day to be more than 24 hours. I have an erasable whiteboard that I put my schedule it. The tip I learnt throughout these experiences are to be flexible. I have different deadlines and important dates written on the board. I mentally keep track how much time I have left before a task was due and allocate time accordingly. It gets difficult at times, especially when multiple deadlines or exams are scheduled within a week. Sometimes, I risk losing hours of sleep in order to study.

7. What was one thing you learned from coordinating and guiding the volunteers at Sustainable Communities Conference?

The most important thing I learnt while coordinating and guiding volunteers was to be patient. Nothing really goes as planned. Despite having an event logistics made with clear timing to follow, it was just a brief outline to follow. Always keep an open mind and accept things as they come through, maybe it’ll turn out to be a great surprise!

8. How did you get involved with the 2018 Burnaby Festival of Learning?

I previously volunteered as a Student Ambassador for the same event back in 2017. Oddly enough, the coordinator remembered me during my interview for Sustainable Communities Conference and she complimented me for being one of the outstanding volunteers that day. I didn’t expect that comment because it was part of my role as a volunteer to do the things that needed to be done. I didn’t think that my contributions were above and beyond anyone’s expectations. As my term as a Volunteer Coordinator ended, my coordinator recommended that I apply for the role as an Events and Marketing Assistant. The rest was history.

9. Were there any challenges in the event planning process that surprised you?

The event planning process had its highs and lows. It required a lot of team coordination and collaboration. It’s difficult to have everyone on the same page and up-to-date with different aspects of the project with the other important things happening in our lives at the same time.

10. What's next for you?

Time to find more volunteer (and work) opportunities! People were not kidding when they say you never stop learning. In the fall, I’ll be volunteering as a BPK Mentor and Health Peer Educator. Or maybe, I’ll find co-op position in the Fall. Who knows?!

As Eva Ang has said in this interview, it is important to start small and reach your way up. A great way to begin your volunteering experience at SFU is by applying to the various opportunities posted on myinvolvement and myexperience as well as signing up for workshops such as the Passport to leadership workshop! As Eva Ang emphasizes “don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to learn more, to try new things and to figure out what works best for you regardless of what those around you think. 

In her last year at SFU, Queenie Lei is wrapping up an undergraduate degree in Communication with a minor in International Studies. Queenie is deeply passionate about sustainability and international affairs, and when not busy with school, loves to read books, volunteer,  and watch her favourite anime - Sailor Moon Crystal!

Beyond the Article

  • Check out Queenie's interview with SFU NATO Club co-founder, Cornel Turdeanu, here.
  • OLC Contributor, Queenie Lei has written spotlight's on other campus clubs. Read Queenie's coverage of Her Campus SFU, here.
Posted on July 18, 2018