By volunteering with my Mates, I found confidence and purpose
My name is Prianca Govender and I am an international student from South Africa studying biomedical science. I moved to Brisbane in February of 2019 when I was 19 years old. I still remember my first day at Nathan campus. As I walked, I thought to myself, ‘this is the start of the journey of a thousand steps’.
Being a young international student, I was quite anxious and found myself lost very quickly. I had stumbled upon a booth set up in the heart of campus that was surrounded by students in red shirts. I spoke to one of the students—my first interaction with another university student. It made an impression, as I joined the Griffith Mates team later that year!
I wanted to join the team to practice something I was taught from a young age: seva. Seva refers to a selfless service that is performed without any expectation of a reward or personal gain. The Griffith Mates program is just that; it is an opportunity to give back to both the domestic and international communities. This was my way of paying forward the good fortune I had when I met that friendly student on that first day of university and gained the confidence to break out of my shell.
As a Griffith Mate, I’ve been able to participate in various online and in-person events. My favourite is volunteering during Orientation Week, as I get to meet new people and help them become more comfortable in their new environment. I also enjoyed hosting a ‘Lunch and Learn’ event recently where I showcased my home country with South African food (including a chip sandwich!). It gave me a huge sense of national pride. Speaking at virtual International Orientation sessions to promote the Griffith Mates program and welcome students from around the world is another thing I really enjoy.
This National Student Volunteer Week (9–15 August), the Griffith Mates are celebrating completing more than 800 volunteer hours for student events so far in 2021. It’s a wonderful achievement for the 102 students from 27 different countries who are part of the group. No doubt, we will add to those 800 hours as this year continues.
What started out as an act of service on my journey of 1000 steps has grown to mean so much more to me. Each shift, I meet people from all walks of life and learn about their culture while gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of my past.
As a child, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined I’d grow up to have a second family from Malaysia to Kazakhstan! I found a home away from home and discovered more about the world outside and the world within and that is why I’m grateful to be a student volunteer.
– Prianca Govender