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Case solved: student associations

Case solved: student associations
So how can participating in a board of a student’s association benefit you? What is the added value of doing a board here for your personal development? And how do you think that you, being a board member of an association, can contribute to the student community. Let’s first discuss some advantages. The biggest advantage for me is that I gained practical experience in business life. It’s the way to broaden your network and to learn how to professionally represent your organisation. I feel as if this learning process starts the moment you get accepted into a student board. My predecessor introduced me to all our external parties, and instructed me on how to behave, and who to talk to.
This is something I’ve never encountered during my studies or anywhere else. And you also learn to cooperate with other students. Being part of a board stimulates cooperation between different people. Each board member has his or her own qualities. To get to a successful and satisfying collaboration implies that everyone respects the fellow board members. In some cases, this requires a diplomatic stance, but while in other situations you have to lead a group. Being able to work together by switching roles is a valuable learning opportunity that prepares for life after your study. I am doing a board here for my personal development. I learn more about my qualities and my rather negative characteristics, and how to improve them.
Besides this, I am doing artistic courses at USVA such as hip-hop and acting. I like to express myself and learn more about group dynamics by participating in these courses. Another advantage I can think of in a full time board chair, you broaden your horizons since you mean a lot of people, not only other students, but also the vice chancellor of the university, and people from the cultural field, for example. And you visit places you have never seen before. You also perform a variety of tasks. And sometimes that means you have to step out of your comfort zone. But it is valuable for your future career to gain experience with unexpected and different situations.
Yes indeed, it’s all about socialising and having fun with the people around you. As a board member, you will go through a lot of places and meet a lot of people. In the first months there are a lot of drinks from other student associations. After a while, you’ll see that you develop strong ties with certain boards and definitely with your own board. The difference with a more traditional student job is that you get to work with a lot of students as a board member. This means that you are the head of an organisation, and you don’t have a boss that will tell you what to do. You and your fellow students have the key in your own hands.
Besides attending drinks and presenting yourself as a business guard, you have to do more as a board member. It includes shaping vision and policy for your organisation. It cooperates with many diverse parties. Additionally, you organise and supervise several activities. Some of previously mentioned activities will pose no difficulties, while others will pose challenge. During a board year, you’re working towards one specific goal. During the year you always keep your goal in mind. For example, the KEI week. During that week, all work of the past year pays of In addition, the prospect of the KEI week works as a motivating factor during the year. Afterwards, you can think back at one specific event and be proud of it.
I think we, as student boards, offer the possibility to students both new, and already studying, to find their place in the city of Groningen. It all starts with the introduction week, when they take their first steps into student life. Through this introduction week, organised by the KEI board, they get in touch with the other organisations. If they prefer a more cultural path, the USVA board provides a plethora of cultural courses and events. If they have a greater tendency towards sports, the ACLO board manages all the students sports in Groningen. If they want to know more about the international life in Groningen, the ESN board provides over 130 activities, including the separate instruction week just for international students.
For those who are more interested in the philosophical and religious topics, the SKLO board provides the possibility to reflect upon these. Together we want to create an atmosphere in Groningen where students have a chance for allround personal development. And I think that is very valuable. However, there are also some disadvantages of being a board member in a student association. What do you think, Emma? Yes, being on a daily board is a full time practice. Full time really means full time, during the daytime, in the office, and in the evening, at drinks. You can also have activities during the weekends, which makes spare time very scarce. Of course, this is different for each board.
And because doing a board is not an actual job, you don’t get paid for the hours you make. Your salary exists of a scholarship offered by the University of Groningen and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Also the delay of study is an important disadvantage. Participating in a board of the Student Association is very demanding and stressful on your study schedule. In some cases, like in mine, it’s impossible to combine a full time study with the ESN Board. We spent at least 35 hours a week in the office, and that is even without all the activities on the side. This makes it very hard to follow any classes, let alone have time enough to actually study or make assignments.
I have noticed that when I tell international students that I had to take a break from my study to do the ESN Board, I get a lot of frowns. It’s hard to see why you would invest a year of your study length to do a student board. Like Emma said, full time boards are full practice. That’s why you are also less flexible in your spare time. And this can have an impact on your social life, and hobbies. Also a year is a board member is much more practically oriented than the information you get during your lectures. For me, it had a consequence that I wasn’t fully motivated any more regarding my studies.
My study felt unimportant compared to the many experiences you have as a board member. During your study, you don’t learn how to act and negotiate diplomatically, or how to supervise a committee. However, for many board positions it holds that practice provides the steepest learning curve. To conclude, we as representatives of a student board would like to say that we think the many advantages strongly outweigh the disadvantages. Through the experience we have already had, we advise you to take up the opportunity to become a part of a student board when it presents itself. Go for it!

In this step, board members of SKLO (Trijntje), ESN Groningen (Stijn), USVA (Lisa), ACLO (Emma) and the KEI week (Nienke) will share their experiences of being a board member with you.

They will elaborate on the advantages and disadvantages. They will also reflect on how student associations can be beneficial for the whole student community.

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