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.
Categories: University Advice