Kashika Sareen

Meet Kashika Sareen:

Headshot of person with long straight dark brown hair, smiling, wearing a black shirt and grey blazer.

About Kashika

Kashika Sareen is currently completing her Masters in Biomedical Sciences at U of G, working in Dr. Glen Pyle’s lab and studying different menopause heart models and their cardioprotective differences. Throughout her U of G journey, Kashika has been involved as a peer helper with Supported Learning Groups for almost 6 semesters, and with Student Volunteer Connections for 5. She volunteers at the Hospital Elderly Life Program at Guelph General Hospital and a Youth2Youth Discussion Group. She has been an Orientation Leader with START Accessible as well as a volunteer with COVAX at the Guelph SkyJack Linamar Vaccination Centre. Kashika talks about her volunteering experiences, why she volunteers and how it has helped her personal, academic, and career journey, and how volunteering led to other things such as an Experiential Learning course credit (BIOL*3660) where she got to intern at Homewood Health to identify trends in research data regarding the mental health of Homewood’s service providers.

What volunteering have you taken part in while at U of G?

“I am currently part of the Hospital Elderly Life Program at Guelph General Hospital, where I visit patients, some dealing with dementia, and run through physical and cognitive exercises with. I am also part of a Youth2Youth Discussion Group, where I got to meet other students and individuals that shared similarities with me, and  many differences as some were older/younger, some were international students etc. We would spend time talking about different topics and learning more about each other’s experiences. I have also been an Orientation Leader with START Accessible for the past two years, hosting social activities, campus tours and academic info sessions before O-week officially begins to empower students with accessibility needs. During the pandemic, I was also a Check in/out volunteer with COVAX at the Guelph SkyJack Linamar Vaccination centre.

Why do you volunteer? How did you get involved in all the volunteering you are a part of?

I started volunteering because I wanted to get more involved in the community around me, whether that was the campus community, or my local neighbourhood community. I got involved with a lot of my on-campus volunteering through the Peer Helper program, which is a great way to be part of making a difference for students and enhancing the campus. Outside of school, I came across a lot of volunteering opportunities at the EL Volunteering fair, as well as through my own searches on the various databases such as the SVC CourseLink page and Volunteer Canada - they offer so many amazing opportunities to be a part of!”

What have you learned through your various volunteering experiences?

“If I were to sum up all my volunteer experiences into one lesson, it would be to always be open to trying new things. Whether it was volunteering for an event I knew very little about or collaborating with new individuals, each experience forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to learn something new. If it weren’t for that open-mindedness, I would not have gotten to try different things like presenting for an international audience, working with career services on graduate school workshops or being a rep for SLGs at campus day! Not only did I get to meet new people through these activities, but I also made impactful differences in supporting others, which is always one of my goals in any volunteering experience I take on.” 

How has volunteering helped your career, personal life, and/or academics, if at all? 

“Volunteering has helped to shape all three of these aspects. In my personal life, I have gotten to connect with so many great individuals through volunteering. Some of my closest friends are those that I work with in my peer helper roles and community volunteering! With my career, volunteering has helped me gain more exposure to my field of interest and truly understand if it is something I can see myself doing in the future. In my pursuit of the healthcare field, I am always looking for different ways that I can support other individuals and I have been able to do so not only within a medical environment, but also on campus through peer mentoring, running workshops, and creating fun social settings for my team. All these experiences have also guided my professional development in teamwork, communication, and so many other skills that make me a more well-rounded individual. In terms of academics, volunteering has helped me further my organizational and time management skills to be able to balance schoolwork with extracurricular commitments. This has, in turn, helped me achieve more productivity in my work and a greater sense of wellness.

Tell us about how your volunteering experience at Homewood Health turned into an EL course credit! How did that take place?

 “I was volunteering with Homewood during an especially busy time in the semester and consequently, I was not able to dedicate as much time as I had hoped to this position. During that same time, I attended a workshop through a peer helper position and learned about Experiential Learning Courses that U of G students could take, and I was particularly intrigued by BIOL3660: Internship in the Biological Sciences. This course allows students to intern with an external organization of their choice and reflect on their development within that organization. This seemed like a perfect fit for me as it would allow me to dedicate more time towards a specific project at Homewood while receiving a course credit for my work! I brought up this opportunity with my supervisor and in seeing the flexibility that this course offered, we developed a project plan for the semester, and I began my work the following semester.

What is your favourite part about volunteering at the Hospital Elderly Life Program (HELP)?

“I love volunteering with HELP because it allows me to take on the role of a caretaker for the patients. Getting to run through physical and cognitive exercises with them has helped me learn more about them and each patient has so much wisdom to offer! I really enjoy getting to hear about patients’ life experiences and their perspectives on the world as there are times where I had not even considered things that they bring up. Overall, the joy I see on patients’ faces when I do visit brings that warm, tingly feeling which truly makes the volunteer experience worth it.”

What was your favourite part about volunteering with START Accessible?

“There was a lot of flexibility in how my team and I could set up events for incoming students - I remember that we created a balloon arch photo op in Rozh for students that were checking in, and so many families took pictures there! This flexibility extended to all of our event planning, which allowed us to accommodate for a variety of students and ensure that their first memory at Guelph was memorable. As well, I got to know my student group in a more casual setting and in doing so, I was able to share my own experiences to ease the nerves of parents and incoming first years.” 

What would your advice be to others who want to volunteer but maybe don't know where to start?

“My advice would be to look into volunteer organizations that align with your interests and passions - whether that is career aspirations or hobbies! Finding an opportunity that matches your interests is so important and makes the volunteering that much more fun. Once you narrow down what kinds of things you would be interested in, you can use databases such as Volunteer Canada or the SVC CourseLink page to find opportunities that would fit with your schedule. There are also many resources on campus, such as Student Volunteer Connections, the EL Volunteer Fair, or Project Serve events that you can utilize to learn more about certain opportunities and even try out some volunteer experiences on a short-term commitment. As always, not being afraid to try something new goes a long way and who knows, maybe you can discover a new interest in taking on volunteering.”