Volunteering with Bilingualism Matters Edinburgh

Post by Miranda Garralda Wong, BM Edinburgh Volunteer

Student societies are an integral part of the university experience because they bring like-minded individuals together and foster a sense of community in what might be considered a foreign, new place for many. It is one of the first things many undergraduate students consider when they arrive, as they attend society fairs and visit stalls lined up from A to Z. I myself have tried out my fair share of societies after going through this exact process. However, it was only much later during the onset of my third year when I found the right group for me.

At the time, Bilingualism Matters’ main headquarters was situated on the ground floor of the Dugald Stewart Building at the University of Edinburgh. I had heard about the research dissemination group in my Linguistics lectures and had walked past the huge printed logo many times on my way to my class. The iconic logo probably did it for me to be honest (good job, marketing and design), but there was still a lot I did not know about BM.

Along with two friends who studied linguistics, I showed an interest in volunteering by sending an email. We were invited in for individual interviews with Christy and Kat, the centre administrator and research and outreach coordinator of BM Edinburgh. To this day I still recall how welcomed I felt during my interview, as I bonded with my interviewers over the nuances of living in a multilingual home. I left the office feeling as though I had finally found the right community, even though it was not exactly a ‘student society’. The sign-up process involved several stages of training and familiarisation with the history and motivations of BM, and soon enough, my friends and I were placed in action – BM’s first Edinburgh Multilingual Stories Festival was to be held at Assembly Roxy in a matter of weeks.

Assembly’s venues are gorgeous, and this one was a 19th century church that had been converted into a three-story space for art, performance and all sorts of events. At the festival, we helped to set up the venue, ushered audiences into their seats for language-related shows and events, eagerly shared BM’s incentives with visitors and admired the building we were in when we had the chance.

I quickly got to know other volunteers during events such as these, meeting PhD students specialising in bilingualism or professors who were going to be teaching me First and Second Language Acquisition in the upcoming year. After getting to know the group, I was invited to branch meetings, where I was introduced to programme directors and respected faculty with whom BM partnered within and outside of Edinburgh. I began to take up more volunteering roles in content production for social media accounts, proofreading and writing blog posts (such as this one that I am writing now), and helping out generally whenever I was available with other departments, such as BM’s upcoming podcast ‘Much Language, Such Speak’. There were informal socials too, which gave us plenty of opportunities to meet with familiar faces within the branch, as well as visiting speakers and researchers who we all wanted to welcome and get to know better.

As I graduate from Edinburgh this summer, I look back on my years with BM with gratitude and many fond memories. I am glad to have been able to find a home outside of home with such a tight-knit and kind group of linguists and language nerds, many of whom would become my mentors and good friends.

Miranda volunteered at Bilingualism Matters for two years, before graduating in 2020 with an undergraduate MA in English Language and Literature from the school of PPLS.