Ana Jurado Santos

What was your experience in sport growing up?

Sports have always been a huge part of my life, even though I had not fully immersed myself into proper competitive playing until University. When I was growing up in Spain, I was signed up to all the dance classes that my school had to offer. On the weekends I used to go on a bike ride to the nearest football field, to play with my dad. When my family moved to Denmark, there were not a lot of after school clubs, so I had to join external clubs and it was a great way for me to integrate into Danish culture and kids my age. At the age of 12 I got introduced to Volleyball and Beach Volleyball, and since then I’ve been playing and making a lot of friends through volleyball everywhere I go.  

I love sports, they are a great way to meet and get to know people. Additionally, sports make you get outside, release some dopamine and serotonin, and destress. I have personally always used sports as an outlet to lower my anxiety.

Tell us a bit about your volunteering experience to date?

Honestly, I cannot remember when I started volunteering, I’ve always seen it as a normal and balanced part of my life. I have always been keen to meet people, help out and volunteer my time. Whether it was for school choir, babysitting, religion classes, student council or running sports days. Any way I could help out and try to make my community a little bit better. 

In high school volunteering took a bigger and more core role in my life. I became student council President and tried to improve my school and students' experience. Through volunteering I took a liking to organising and managing stuff. Thus, in my last year in Denmark I played a key role in the student committee that organised my high-school’s own Module United Nations Conference (BIGMUN 2020), which hosted around 500 students, both international and national.

After my first year of uni, which was quite isolating due to COVID, I decided to take a bit of control and really immerse myself in the Dundee University community. I did this by joining the Dundee University Volleyball Club committee. This was the best decision I have ever made, not only did I make friends but also found a safety net in a new country. For these last 2 years I have been part of the committee by being Social Media Manager and Captain of our District League teams, but I have also enjoyed playing volleyball within the Women’s first team. I believe my volunteering experience is just beginning, the only limiting factor for me is now time.

What/who inspired you to get into volunteering?

A huge inspiration for me and my volunteering journey have been my parents. I have always admired the way they devote themselves to others and give up their time to good causes. They have always been happy to donate their time and efforts, this is what I grew up watching so I don’t really know anything else. My parents volunteered in Scouts groups, at church, school events, charities and soup kitchens, and they brought me along to help and take part. They enjoy helping out others and they have educated me to as well. They have always said that ‘You should try and leave a place better than you found it’, and though this was usually directed to the campsite we were cleaning up, I have taken this slogan to heart everywhere I have been. So when I moved to a new country, I honestly did not think about it twice. Volleyball needed a volunteer that could manage their social media, and Captain, and I had time and wanted to make friends, so why not?

Another huge factor that played into me volunteering at university was that nearly EVERYTHING is student run, so without volunteers like you and I, a lot of clubs and societies and events would not run. So I needed to be part of something, pay my dues and help out. Because if I wanted something to run for my own selfish passion of playing Volleyball, I needed to actively participate in it and help out. 

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

There are so many things, but number one would probably be the people. The people you meet along the way, the people that you work with day to day, the people that enjoy your events and make friends at socials, the people that help out just like you and are so so passionate. The amount of great people I have met through volunteering is incredible. Additionally, I absolutely love the feeling of seeing an event you have organised being carried out and enjoying the outcome that all your hard work has made happen. Especially when other people are enjoying it so much, and making so many core memories at an event that you have planned. 

Have you had to overcome any challenges or barriers whilst volunteering?

I think when moving to Dundee, to a city and a university I had not visited, I used my volunteering to overcome my challenge of being in a new city and not knowing anyone. Volunteering for Dundee University Volleyball Club (DUVC) provided me with a community outside of home. I’ve been moving around my whole life with my family, so moving alone to a different country, without a safety net, was a daunting experience. For me, DUVC and the people that I have met through it have become this safety net, and like family. 

Of course, there will be obstacles along the way that you have to overcome when volunteering; being able to find a balance with academics, solving issues that come up, and many other things. But you rarely have to do it alone, you will have like minded people helping out as well.

What advice would you give to others looking to get involved in volunteering?

I realise I am a special case and I give a lot of time to my club and community, and it is quite intense. But I believe that volunteering comes in many shapes and sizes. And believe me, from an organisational point of view, they are ALL appreciated. Whether it is a few hours a week, or by showing up to fundraisers and societies’ and sport union events, or by providing a venue or taking pictures during events or even cheering sports-mates on. All you really need to volunteer is your time and a smile. 

I don’t want to put any people off by saying that volunteering takes an intense toll and time and effort. In these kinds of things, all the small bits matter just as much. A lot of people doing smaller bits to volunteer is much better than one person doing a lot. This creates a community of people that are passionate and care about the one same cause. 

At the end of the day, university is not all about academics, its about finding a purpose and a passion and exploring yourself. I believe that volunteering and being involved in sports will help you do that in the best way possible. At university, unlike high school, you have to make the conscious choice to get involved in activities, events and communities. So I think that by volunteering (especially in sports) you give yourself that opportunity to grow and find friends for life. So if you are new to volunteering, don’t be scared to take those small steps and make people aware that you are willing to help and participate.  

Date published: 14 July 2023
Date updated: 14 July 2023


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