I Opened Myself To Change And Evolution – What I Did Right At University!

aerial view of graduates wearing hats
aerial view of graduates wearing hats
Photo by: Good Free Photos/Unsplash

In my previous article, I mentioned that I’m technically still a  student – a PhD student. I also mentioned that I’m now a different type of student. In fact, after my MA, I promised  myself that my perspective on the university experience  would be different during my PhD programme. 

I’d already figured out that there was no point in being angry  with everyone and with myself because things didn’t go as  planned; I now needed to fit in whichever environment I  would find myself in. I, therefore, opened myself to change  and evolution.  

The first step was to familiarise myself with ‘The Rocket’,  London Metropolitan University’s student bar, which I failed  to discover during my MA. I started attending that venue regularly. In fact, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic (which led to its temporary closure), I would go to the bar on most  evenings when on campus. The karaoke nights were always  my favourite events to attend. You would find me there  singing Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ or advocating for more afrobeat songs to be included in the karaoke playlist. I  also got to know a lot of other students through these types  of events. Those were indeed the good old days…  

The second step was to get involved with my student union  (another entity I was almost unaware of when I was doing  my MA). I started getting involved in as many activities as  possible. I got into two different sports teams, started writing  for the student magazine, and of course whenever I would  have a break, I would spend it in the Harglenis Building (London Met’s Student Union building) having tea, playing  video games, and chatting with fellow students. Again, all  these enabled me to meet incredible students from various  backgrounds.  

The previous step took me out of what was before my PhD  programme, a comfort zone. It led to the last step of that  evolution and change. I got actively involved in the London  Met’s research community. 

I guess that prior to my involvement with the Student Union,  I was quite a shy person (I know many people will now find it  hard to believe) and that involvement gradually built and consolidated my self-confidence. I became an active  member of the Postgraduate Research Society, managing  its communication and media relations; I started helping the  Research and Postgraduate Office in the writing and editing  of a Postgraduate Research newsletter, and I was elected  by the student council to represent PhD students in 2  committees (the Research Degrees Subcommittee and the  School of Computing and Digital Media’s Research and  Knowledge Exchange Committee). I even started giving  loads of speeches and presentations.  

I’m not saying that all is (always) well. That’s not at all the  case. If my fellow doctoral students read the previous  sentence, they will certainly be amazed. According to them,  I am the example to follow and someone who is extremely  well-balanced and who succeeds in almost everything he  does.  

Well, I’ll just laugh about that. The truth is, things can be  rough at times and I’ve come to terms with this. However, I  would say that I now don’t have to carry that roughness on  my own. Opening myself and letting people I met at  university helped a great deal and still does. I am still an  excellent student, but I’ve now realised that it doesn’t have  to be incompatible with making friends and socialising in  university’s settings. Bill Withers got it all right when he sang: “lean on me when  you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on;  for it won’t be long until I’m gonna need somebody to lean  on”. The university experience is not only about people  studying, but also about people connecting, forming  communities, and leaning on one another. This is, I think,  what I am doing right now.

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