It has been a wild year being SU President! And an unbelievable two years working for the Students’ Union.
As I come to the end of my term, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to reflect on my journey at University and how I became a Students’ Union President.
I started Uni way back in 2014 studying Music. My parents put my sister and me through piano lessons when we were six years old to keep us busy as they ran our takeaway. I was ridiculously shy growing up and honestly wept for days when I first moved to University. I didn’t drink alcohol, I was still traumatised from some rather rough years at school so I didn’t have high hopes for my time at Cardiff.
What didn’t help was being placed at Uni Halls, a forty-minute trek from campus! It was a pretty lonely time. One day during Freshers' Week, when I was holed up in my room, my housemates knocked on my bedroom door and dragged me into the kitchen for some tea and to have a chat. I even remember them cheering as I sat down as we could finally get to know each other properly. The rest was history and I really came out of my shell after that.
With this newfound confidence, I took EVERY opportunity going at University. I performed, volunteered, and interned all over the world whilst studying. I got into the University Orchestra where I got to perform all across Europe and China. I successfully applied for an internship in Hong Kong and I ended my third year on a year abroad in Helsinki in Finland.
I interned in Hong Kong in my first year and it was here that I met the then Students’ Union President. He sounded like he had the coolest job in the world but I also remember thinking that I would never be like him. He was confident, experienced, and had some amazing stories about his time at the Students’ Union – it was otherworldly.
In the summer before my final year, I got an email from the Students’ Union about this opportunity to volunteer for the Union helping students move into halls. I jumped at this as I wanted to make sure that these new students, who might have felt like me when I first started, would be okay. I could tell them how nervous and shy I was and prove to them that it would all work out.
The training was intense but fun and it was the first time I ever got involved in the Union. I even remember moving someone into my first-year room! I loved this experience so much that I continued to volunteer for the year to help vulnerable students in the Student Advice Department. Through this, I got to know some of the Elected Officers and learned more about what they did for students. When it came to Elections season, I was inundated with encouragement to run but continually brushed off their suggestions – I would never win! I loved the Union, I was really involved but I was not good enough to win.
I was rehearsing at the School of Music where I almost jokingly asked my friends if I should run in the elections. They threw around some ideas of things they’d want to change if I was in charge and one friend randomly shouted across the room ‘YEP TO YIP’. Next thing you know, my choir was chanting this in my elections video, I had a brass band playing outside of Main Building wearing ‘Yep to Yip’ t-shirts, and the next thing you know, I was elected Vice President Education.
I spent the year representing students on all their academic interests, it was amazing! I graduated just as I started the job and I remember crossing the stage to shake the Vice-Chancellor's hand. Instead of saying congratulations, he said ‘see you tomorrow!’ as I heard my friends, family, and lecturers cheering me on – that was pretty cool. That was the start of a rollercoaster year of successes, hurdles, and lots of new experiences.
I became a charitable trustee for the Union and University, led over 1,000 student reps to improve the student experience, and learned so much more about the Students’ Union. I loved it so much, I ran in the elections again! This time, to be Students’ Union President.
I now lead a charity that turns over £10 million a year, I am chair of the Board of Trustees and line manage six Vice Presidents. It’s a tough job but worth every second.
My office is decorated with memories of my time at University. I have a picture of the entire school of music at their end of year photoshoot and my parents at my graduation. My favourite photo sits on my desk, a picture of my housemates and me in our final year together.