Below our #HallamInsider Zhanna Tlegenova shares her experience of working as a volunteer. If reading this inspires you to get involved in some volunteering this summer, then check out the Student Union’s volunteering information here.
How volunteering at major sport events brought me to Sheffield
In 2016 I hit the road to make my dream come true – to volunteer at the Summer Olympic Games 2016 in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil. At that moment I did not expect that this journey would impact on my personal and professional development.
The journey of becoming an Olympics Volunteer
Volunteering is always a choice and, sometimes, it is all about learning something new and leaving your comfort zone. After the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in my home country, Russia, and many references told from my friends who were the Games volunteers, I decided that the next Summer Olympics in Brazil will be too big to miss for me and it might be once in a life-time opportunity to volunteer. Thus, I applied at the Games 2016 official website when the call for volunteers was open, 2 years before the Games. It is a standard procedure for everybody who wants to volunteer at the Games. Later on, when I was pre-selected, I did several trainings on the Olympic Games History, Olympic venues and sports, how to work with spectators, Olympians and Paralympians. The final stage was an interview with a recruiter 6 months before the Games. And finally in March 2016, I received “the letter of happiness”, how we called the confirmation emails saying we were selected to be Games 2016 volunteers.
My volunteering life in Rio
I was working as an EVS Team Member at the Arena da Juventude (Youth Arena) in Deodoro, a neighborhood of the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The venue hosted fencing and female basketball competitions. The majority of the volunteers at the venue were locals and only 5-6 were international volunteers. Our main work was working with spectators, checking tickets, navigating and managing crowds, creating the atmosphere of the sport celebration. After the shift we could watch a game at the venue, party with our international team and explore the beautiful Rio.
During the Games, the competing countries usually open the Houses to represent a nation and welcome visitors. I decided to take a chance and apply to volunteer at the Russian Fans House, organised by the Russian Olympic Committee right at the Copacobana beach in Rio. The mission of the House was to support Russian athletes during the Games, welcome visitors and share Russian culture, traditions and hospitality. The volunteers of the House had a chance to meet famous Russian and foreign athletes, medal bearers, and personally participate in the medal ceremonies. It was an incredible experience.
How did this experience change my life?
I never volunteered anywhere before the Games, and at that time was not fully aware what it is like – to be a volunteer. This experience totally changed my life and my career interests. The most important are those amazing people I met who became my life-long friends. Sometimes I am thinking how my life would have been if I have decided not to volunteer and stay. During my volunteering period, I realised that working in sports events industry is a challenging but exciting process and this is what I exactly would like to do. After the Olympics 2016 I started working for the World Students Games 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, then came the ASTANA EXPO 2017, the International Specialized Exhibition in Kazakhstan. In 2018 I was invited to work for the FIFA World Cup in Russia but not as a volunteer, already as an employee. During my work at the World Cup I started thinking on doing my Master degree in Sports Business Management, and found this course at the Sheffield Hallam University and came to Sheffield to study.