Volunteering@WU gives WU students the opportunity to give back to the community by helping socially disadvantaged kids and teens, completing an internship in the field of development cooperation, or supporting refugees in their integration efforts. By volunteering their time and knowledge, students not only contribute to a more harmonious society but also learn to empathize with other people’s life situations – a core skill for tomorrow’s leaders.
An award-winning initiative
In Austria, social background is still a limiting factor with regard to access to higher education. Coming from a poor family severely reduces the likelihood of participation in higher education, which means that in most cases, a person’s educational trajectory can already be predicted from a very young age. With this in mind, WU launched the “Lernen macht Schule” initiative in cooperation with Caritas Vienna and REWE International in 2010.
For a semester or a whole academic year – sometimes even longer – student volunteers meet on a weekly basis with kids from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to help with their schoolwork and spend free time together. These encounters are beneficial both from an educational and from a social integration perspective. Several supporting programs have been developed to help further these goals: The Learning Buddy program, summer camps, and a Music Buddy project.
This commitment has now been recognized with an award. Every year, the initiative “Wirtschaft hilft!” of Fundraising Verband Austria presents awards to the most innovative and sustainable charity projects. The “Lernen macht Schule” project received the 2019 “Wirtschaft hilft!” award in the category Corporate Volunteering.
The jury was especially impressed by the project’s positive approach involving mutual learning during extracurricular activities, the intensive involvement of WU students in the various sub-projects, and the successful efforts to build relationships between kids and students with very different social backgrounds and completely different life situations.
Facts & Figures "Lernen macht Schule"
- Approximately 120 WU students volunteer to work with socially disadvantaged kids and teens as learning or music buddies each semester.
- Program participants contribute over 10,000 hours of volunteer work every year. Altogether, this makes a total of over 115,000 hours since the start of the program.
- WU student volunteers worked with 240 children and teenagers in refugee shelters and shelters for women and children.
Helping others help themselves
Since the summer of 2019, WU students have been offered the opportunity to participate in a 3-month internship in the field of development cooperation.
The SDG Internship Program gives students the opportunity to contribute their time and skill to EZA development cooperation projects. Interns help further develop projects through preparatory work, on-location support, or providing structured feedback. When they return home after their internship, program participants become SDG ambassadors and help spread awareness for the UN’s sustainable development goals.
WU initiated the SDG Internship Program in the 2018/19 academic year, in cooperation with Horizont3000, the Austrian organization for development cooperation, and 3 other Austrian universities (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, TU Wien, and the University of Vienna’s Department of Development Studies).
Facts & Figures „SDG Internship Program“
- In the pilot year 2018/19, a total of 70 students applied for the SDG Internship Program, including 37 WU students.
- Each university sent 8 applicants for pre-selection for the total of 17 available internships. The H3000 Assessment Center selected 6 candidates from WU, 3 from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, 3 from TU Wien, and 4 from the University of Vienna to participate in the summer of 2019. One internship place remained unfilled.
Giving refugees a voice
Many refugees had already begun studying at universities in their home countries before they were forced to flee from war and persecution, while others had just graduated from secondary school and would now like to enroll at an Austrian university to continue their education. Our MORE Initiative helps these people reach this goal.
Since 2005, the MORE program has helped refugees prepare to study at WU by providing German lessons free of charge. Most of the program participants come from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Demand remains high, and there were 100 applications for the program in 2019. In the 2019/20 winter semester, a total of 54 people participated in the program: 19 at the beginners’ B1 level, 20 at the intermediate B2 level, and 15 at the advanced C1 level, offered for the first time in 2019.
In addition to German courses, participants could also attend a computer class offered every semester in cooperation with WU master’s students. The MORE program also gives participants the opportunity to attend introductory classes on campus and organizes field trips to art and cultural events in Vienna. A guided tour of Campus WU, comprehensive academic counselling, and free access to the library are further features of the program.