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How I made my voice heard at UCL, even as a fresher

19 May 2017

How I made my voice heard at UCL, even as a fresher

Have you ever felt like university has to be more than just lectures, booze and exams? At school, I never really felt that I belonged – maybe you felt the same way? Perhaps that is why you came to UCL, like I did, to find a group of people that were like you; a place where you could belong. Only, for me, that's not what I found – initially, at least. Even though the setting had changed, I still felt out of place.

It wasn't until November that I really found a group of close friends. If you’d been there with me, you would’ve been eating spaghetti sitting in a corridor of Ramsay Hall. I felt better for a while – but eventually, I started to feel restless. I had this strong desire to do something other than work on essays or do module work.

Even in December when I applied for an internship at UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education, I was really dragging my feet. I felt disillusioned with academia and its bureaucracy. To my surprise, I got an interview. To my even greater surprise, I got the job.

A new side of UCL

UCL ChangeMakers

Have you ever felt your world instantly shift before your eyes? That’s what I felt. I became aware of a new side of UCL I never saw as "just a student”, and found that even as a fresher, my voice matters, and my contribution is valued.

Paired with Anoodth Naushan, a spirited Canadian Masters’ student, our adventure began as we investigated UCL's staff-training Arena program, bringing in a student perspective to shape the work in the way we wanted it to affect us. We interviewed the people in charge, we ran focus groups, and worked alongside teachers as colleagues to improve UCL.

Working with students and teaching staff isn’t always easy, but for me that’s what makes the change I am trying to create rewarding. What I learned is that when you aren’t where you want to be, you need to be creative and proactive, rather than critical and resigned, to create the space where you want to be.

I know I did. I know we all can. Creating “our” UCL begins with us: the students. If you are interested in effecting change, you can hear a lot more stories about students who are making a difference at the UCL ChangeMakers Fair on June 5, 2pm – 4:45pm at Student Central.

Applying to do something outside of my studies felt like a burden back in December. Yet, in five months, my life changed in so many positive ways that I never expected. The UCL ChangeMakers team is now seeking proposals for Autumn Term 2017/18 projects.

What do you care about? How would you like to shape UCL for yourself and others? Maybe you’re a StAR who knows what would make a real difference. Perhaps you’re a student who recognises something your department doesn’t.

Send UCL ChangeMakers your project proposal by June 22. Next year, with their backing, you might find your life changing as you bring your project – your vision – to life.

Robert is a first-year undergraduate Psychology and Language Sciences student, and a student journalist for myUCL.

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