Written by Tjitske Schokker, President of ESN Groningen 2018/2019
Groningen has a unique student culture: there is always something going on and events are extra affordable if you are a student. This is all, to a large extent, facilitated by the city’s many student organisations. However, these organisations don’t just exist by themselves. They are in fact run by students on a voluntary basis; some positions are full-time, whereas others are part-time and combined with a study.
When I told my family and friends that I was going to take a year off from my studies to be on the board of ESN Groningen, I got lots of questions, of which the most frequent one was: why? This is a question that I have heard many more times throughout this year, and is there is never a single answer – in fact, there are so many answers, it’s hard to know where to begin. In this blog, I will tell you five reasons to do a board year and hopefully I will inspire you to the same!
While your study friends are in class, studying in the library or preparing a presentation because they ‘have to’, you are writing your own policies and proposals and setting your own rules together with your fellow board members. If you are doing a board you are the one who is in charge of an association, which comes with a lot of responsibility. However, it also allows for ideas where you can finally put all the theoretical insights that you have gotten during your studies into practice! At the same time, most of this work – and the huge social side of it – takes place within the Groningen student bubble, which is an incredibly dynamic world full of enthusiastic and fun people. There is a huge diversity in the areas where these students are active, yet you will find common ground with most of them. You won’t have to miss any parties because, let’s be honest, your fellow board members are also students.
Once you are part of any student board in Groningen, you will find out about an entire subculture that exists in the city’s student life. While everyone else is biking back from Zernike or is still in class, you are joining a well deserved beer after a long day of work together with many other boards at a ‘constitution drink’. Next to this, you may have meetings with representatives of the University, the municipality or commercial partners. In the case of my own board, I also got to meet many amazing people from other (inter)national ESN sections, in different places all over Europe. Meeting all these new people will expand your (professional) network massively, while also making friends all over the Netherlands and the world!
The great thing about being in a board, is that you are practically your own boss. This means that you will get a lot of practical insight into running an organisation. Because of this, you will gain a lot of skills, from working efficiently in a team to managing projects, networking, time management, task dividing, working with partners, bookkeeping, designing and much more. You will learn to reflect on these skills, on how you handled certain issues and on how you achieved your goals. This will definitely give you a competitive advantage when starting your career, no matter what field you are in. Personally, I have found that these skills have also helped me a lot in my daily (non-professional) life – I have become better at managing my time and prioritizing my to-do’s.
I will never forget the first time one of the students that participated in the ESN Introduction Week came up to me and said: “Thank you for organising this amazing week, my start here couldn’t have been better!” As a board, you work hard throughout the entire year and don’t always get recognition for this, but the moments that you do make it worth all the work. This doesn’t always have to be in the form of a direct ‘thank you’; seeing people enjoy the things that you organise and make new friends through it is very rewarding, as well as (new) projects and cooperations you successfully undertake for the benefit of all students in Groningen. You may not always feel it during your year, but everyone who has done a board year can look back with pride at what they achieved during their year – especially when this is continued and built upon in following years.
Whether it’s because of your fellow board members, who after a year feel like family, the many skills you learned or the people you got to meet – doing a board year is without a doubt a once in a lifetime experience! Some may say that spending a year volunteering seems like a waste of time, but ask anyone who has done a board year, and every single one of them will tell you that it was not only an extremely enriching experience, but also an unforgettable year – possibly the best year of their life.
Did you get inspired into doing a board year, or at least a little bit interested? There are countless opportunities in Groningen to become part of a board, one of which is the Executive Board of ESN Groningen. If you enjoy an international atmosphere, the ESN Board is possibly a great choice for you. You can find out more about what it means to become the ESN Board and the application procedure itself right here: www.esn-groningen.nl/get-involved/apply-for-the-executive-board. You can also find out more about ESN Groningen as an organisation on our website, www.esn-groningen.nl. If you have any questions whatsoever about ESN Groningen or applying for the Board, feel free to contact us! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a message via Facebook or just drop by the office. The deadline for sending in your application is April 3rd at 23:59.