Your work will be more successful if you arrange your visit(s) to partner community site(s) early, enabling you to make multiple visits and adjust to unexpected setbacks.
Determine your interests.
Envision the type of experience that most interests you. What are you hoping to learn or do? List the places you would most like to work with and alternative sites. Once you have your list, think about your goals and/or assignment.
Consult and draw upon available resources.
Take advantage of support services available, especially the Center for Community Engagement, and the resource centers (QRC, MRC, and WGC). Do some preliminary research about the community you are hoping to explore by examining primary and secondary sources so you have some familiarity with the community you are entering before you engage with the community.
Reach out for support and advice.
Every community is unique and presents distinctive opportunities and challenges. You are strongly encouraged to select and plan your community engagement in consultation with your professor and/or other college staff.
When scheduling meetings and off-campus work, consider your course schedule and daily obligations. Be realistic about your transportation needs. Consider building a cushion of time to account for getting lost or a late bus, especially since buses don’t always run on time.
Balance desires and realistic expectations.
Be curious and remember that experiences and communities are complex and multifaceted. This is just one small opportunity to learn.
Once you have negotiated and agreed upon a site visit, meeting, or community work, be on time and fully commit to the experience, not only for your own reputation but also for the sake of other students and members of the community who might visit the site in the future.
Have a good attitude.
Try to keep an open mind and a positive demeanor. Remember that you can learn as much, or more, from difficult experiences and challenges as you can from easier or more favorable experiences. Remember that surrounding yourself with appropriate support when needed will assist in the adjustment process.
Remember that you do not have to be an “authority” or an “expert.”
Rather, you can consider yourself a partner in a mutual learning process that, at best, benefits you and those with whom you come in contact.
Remember that there is not always a set response for every situation.
Though guidelines are available and you should use them, each situation is unique and every element of a situation may not be addressed in the guidelines or other resources. In some instances you may have to rely on your common sense and good instincts.
Adapted from: Dunlap, M. R. (2000). Reaching Out to Children and Families: Students Model Effective Community Service. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.