By Luke Footman
Becoming a student at university will encompass a whole new independent life for you, whether that means moving out of your parents’ house for the first time or entering the first stage of adult life. Besides gaining a new level of education, students are also advancing into new communities of people from across different regions. A lot of people affirm that the friends they meet at university are for life and their time there is an unforgettable experience.
However, life at university can also be a drastic change for many people and there will be numerous good and bad times, in terms of stress levels with approaching deadlines, to the different dynamics of teaching and lecture halls. Being around thousands of other students clogging the hallways, you may experience a feeling of apprehension while not understanding that you have a voice that can be heard echoing against those same walls.
This was one of the reasons I recently decided to become a student representative which enables students to develop and strengthen leadership skills, connect with various internal and external agencies, assist fellow students with having their voice heard and share experiences and participate in nation-wide events for student leaders. Contrary to the introduction of this article I must confess that I am not new to university life. I have just started the final year of my undergraduate degree, but I have recently felt that I have not embedded myself into the university apart from my own personal studies.
I had a cosmic epiphany begin to dawn on me because in less than a year I will be catapulted into graduate life searching for job opportunities or seeking other avenues to further my own personal studies. In any case, I was making my way into the big bad world. I decided earlier this year that I would take up all the great opportunities available to me at university and sure enough, not long after this realisation, I received an email about becoming a student representative. At first, I was apprehensive about gunning for the role that can lead to elections and being rejected. Yet, the thought of representing students voices on a level that could impact actual change genuinely persuaded me.
Fast forward a few weeks after accepting the position, I then had several other worries to tackle – I mean for one, how was little old me going to engage with students and get their honest opinions about student life and more importantly what change did I want to construct? Firstly, it’s satisfying to know that when you become a student representation there is always internal help on hand. From orientation to training sessions you are guided through how to represent your peers and what is expected from you, while also being aware of the role you may play as a representative. It is also great being around like minded people that want to impact change within their schools.
What will I be able to achieve as a Student Representative?
You can bring about real change and make life at university better for your fellow students and yourself. During 2016 for example, a student successfully made it possible to get extra funding into the defective WIFI access at Hertfordshire University, while in other years’ students have lobbied for specific course software that aided in the acceleration of access to an elite education. The main role of student representatives is to gather and communicate views from your peers on various aspects of your course. The overall aim is to improve the learning experience for current and future students. There is also a real chance of personal development and becoming an excellent role model within your school everyone is trying their best and being a leader at school doesn’t always mean you must have perfect grades.
The priority for me to write this article was to broadcast the significant work student representatives do, though I also wanted to promote the idea of students engaging with their university on more than one level. Go out there and join societies, become a student representative, engage with new people outside your own personal circle and above all enjoy yourself. Generally, I now have plenty of ideas on the impact I would like to change within my school and I want to be impartial with my changes because being a student representative is not just about representing my own personal views; it is about being a cohesive voice of my peers. I hope to write great things in the future about my volunteering at university and the possible changes to come.