What other student activities were you involved in?
From my first year at BL, I had been involved with RAG, mostly on the organixational side sorting out the legalities, as well as driving the minibus during RAG week. I also ended up editing MAD Magazine, our student magazine filled with news and photos of student lives, which required some delicate negotiations with the medical school sometimes about content! I was also a student rep on the academic side, less excitingly. These were all roles I had kind of fallen into rather than sought out, but I tried my best to do them well.
Why did you run for BLSA President?
I decided to run for President the first time because I wanted to make the Students’ Association a better place (a rather undefined goal!). I lost that year, and there was some talk at the time that this was because I’m gay, but I don’t think that had much to do with it – the winning candidate was just more charismatic! I decided to run again the following year and won, which was an amazing feeling after the sting of losing before. I stood for a second term after that year mainly because we couldn’t find any student willing to stand, and I was afraid the Association would suffer and we would lose the sabbatical officer position if no-one ran...
How did you find the role?
The presidential role was much, much more than I had realised it would be, with a huge number of things to do that the students don’t see. I found my working day shifted to be 10am to midnight most days so I could attend formal meetings in the day and then see the students I was representing in the evenings at the events. It was really hard work – the hardest I’ve worked in my life, I think - but very much a labour of love, so it didn’t feel like work. It gave me a wide range of skills that most people do not have at this age - people-management, financial planning, event planning, etc. It set me up to take on other leadership roles later in life with confidence. It also cemented some friendships - which continue to this day - with fellow officers.
Would you recommend it?
If I had to advise someone how to do well in any representative role, I’d say that decisions are largely made by those who show up. The president can speak truth to power fearlessly, but you should approach things with an eye to finding the win-win for your students and for the people you’re negotiating with. And importantly: enjoy it - it’s a wild year!