During my time at Buckinghamshire New University I studied Psychology and Criminology, and it is fair to say that I was a bit of an awkward fresher. I was really nervous starting University as I had not been away from home very much before. Part of the reason that I chose to come to BNU was that it was about half an hour away from home so I wasn’t too far away from my family. I decided to move into Hughenden halls in my first year so that I could get to know some different people and start becoming more independent. Before I moved into halls, I met a few of my housemates online through the BNU Freshers Facebook page which was great as it broke the ice and nervousness for me a little bit. I will always remember moving in day when I was sat in the kitchen in halls with a few of my new housemates making small talk when one of my new housemates burst through the kitchen door and introduced himself quite loudly and proudly and it just made us all laugh and even though we were all polar opposites we just clicked. Even though we were all on different courses and from different backgrounds, we would go on flat nights out together which helped to get to know each other better and we all became good friends. I do think that no matter who you are or what level of confidence you have, you will make friends with people in your halls.
During my first year I became a Student Representative for my course. We had someone from the Students’ Union Representation team come into our lecture and give a talk about the importance of representation and I decided to sign up. I went on to be a Student Representative for all three years of my course and it was such a great experience, I got to know my course team a little bit better and help to raise the voice of students on my course.
In my second year I became a School officer because I really wanted to help better represent the voices of my course mates, as well as the other courses in my school. This began the start of me working my way up the different levels of representation within the Student’s Union and definitely started to spark my interest in going up for some of the higher up representation roles. In my second year I ran to be a Student Trustee and NUS delegate and whilst I didn’t get the NUS delegate role, I was voted in as a Student Trustee. I was also the Undergraduate Representative at the University’s Education Committee board in my final year as well. These roles meant that I was involved in a lot of the strategy and planning meetings for the Union and worked closely with higher stakeholders within the Union and University.
Looking back, I had never really thought about these roles as a fresher but I am glad that I went for them as it felt great to be able to feedback comments into those meetings even though I felt so nervous the first few times. The Leadership Academy in my third year also played a large part in my journey to being a Sabbatical officer and Emily in particular helped and coached me through the process of becoming a Sabbatical officer. I remember at an Open Day being a prospective student seeing the Vice President Education and Welfare at the time and thinking that it was so cool what she was doing and wishing I could do something like that.
I never thought I would be here now starting my second term as the Vice President Education and Welfare. I’ve got so much more confidence now than I did a few years ago and I know for sure that if I hadn’t come to BNU I would never have run to be a Sabbatical officer and I am truly thankful for the opportunities I have been able to get involved with during my time at BNU thanks to the Big Deal as it really has helped me to develop as a person.
I know my experience at BNU isn’t the same as a ‘typical’ student who’s into clubs, societies, and club nights but it was great to be able to come to a smaller institution and be able to really feel a part of a community. I think whether you do one thing or fifty different things with the Students’ Union, you still feel like you’re a part of a really welcoming community and I would really recommend applying for the Leadership Academy or becoming a Student Representative for your course. From a timid Fresher to becoming a Sabbatical Officer, if I can do it, then so can you!
- Natasha Neal, Vice President Education and Welfare 2021-22