Friday, 20 February 2015


Giving up is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Human beings have a tendency to view sunk costs as retrievable, which they're not. If you've put five years into a relationship, you can't get them back - but people let it cloud their judgement anyway. If you've gambled a lot of money on an investment, you feel the need to find more money, in the hope you'll get it back.

I've invested five years, on and off, on the Students' Association here at Aberdeen University. I've seen a whole host of brilliant people come through, argued passionately for policies that made students' better, and for the past year I've been working hard on employability matters.

I've sunk a lot in, and at the start of this year I wanted to run for a Sabbatical role, to keep doing what I'm doing, to keep improving the student experience. I got my nominations in order, my team, my campaign prep - and then I sat down for two days and I thought about what I want to do.

And it's not this. I don't want to be elected. If I were to continue to work for students, I'd do it as a member of staff driving policy and supporting officers - but I don't think an election is going to give me that chance. I think that position is going to require someone who will be present, all the time, always focussed on the role and the responsibilities of that role.

I don't think Rob's done that this year. He's been absolutely brilliant fighting on education, but his work with me on employability has been non-existent. That's how he works, and to be honest I'm almost thankful to him for that, because it gave me the opportunity to take responsibility for projects that I might not have otherwise taken on. But I can't match that passion, and what's needed is someone who will continue to fight in the same vein as he has. That wouldn't be me.

This year I've learnt so much about employability, about placements, about how to generate interest for students to become more employable. More people than ever are attending university, and that's amazing, but it means graduates need to be able to show skills that they didn't have to before. This skilling up will become more and more important, and I'm confident that at the very least next year's VP Employability will work hard on that.

But all of this experience means nothing unless you can convince people that you're the right person for the job, and I'm not sure I can. I believe in my ideas; I'm confident they'll work.

But I don't think I'm the right person to make them happen.

I'm going to try to find a job out there in the world for a little while, and maybe one day I'll come back to student unions and bring the ideas of others to fruition - and maybe I won't.

But in the last year I've met someone who's made me a better person, who makes me feel invincible, whom I love. And although I've wanted to be in charge since I arrived - does anyone remember that awful, awful second year campaign? - I've realised there's something far more important. I'm not going to risk this chance at happiness for the sake of the Students' Association and its members.

So those are my reasons. I'm not looking to be elected: I want to teach, not to fight.

Besides, I want to find a cheap, one-bedroom flat in London to share with my partner and my cat. That's quite enough challenge for the moment.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015


I arrived in London on Monday night, checked into a hotel, woke up at 6 the next day, spent the entirety of that following day assessing and being assessed by Civil Servants, and then had an extremely robust Lebanese red in a wine bar where “measure” is considered a filthy word. 

Romantic + absurdly huge measures
= my kind of wine bar
For afters I went home, enjoyed a bath. You have no idea how glorious a bath is until you’ve not had one in months. I thought my skin was melting until I realised it was muscles unknotting. 

Then I stayed up far too late watching Bones. I was going to stop at 9 and go to bed, but then one of the characters started hallucinating Stewie from Family Guy and that’s the sort of thing you need an explanation for.
The explanation was "brain tumour," if you were wondering.
Today I got up at 6.30, made my way back into London, and spent the day talking up democratic procedures, Skills Awards (like our very own STAR) and how to encourage students to take up placements. That last one is something I’m particularly interested in, if only because there’s such a huge capacity for students in Aberdeen to take part in internships and placements over the summer. It can’t be denied that a lot of those are in the oil and gas industry – it’s an industry that hardly needs more help in damaging the planet, and most certainly one that we shouldn’t be encouraging students towards.

(With that being said, we can’t avoid the truth that many of our students will end up there, and so we – as an Association – need to ask ourselves how we can be both a lobby group for positive social change and a representative body for students who will work in environmentally damaging industries.)

Ah well. Maybe there are answers in sleep, which is exactly where I'm heading. My week so far has been exhausting. Tomorrow will be peaceful. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Employability Week: Lessons learnt

Short form:

  • You can't do everything
  • You can rely on other people
  • Sometimes, you need more than a week to do things (that's a tough one for me to learn)
  • You can tell a horse about the water, where it's happening, and how good the water is, but you can't make it drink. Not even if it's been complaining of thirst.
Long form:

This was the week that I learnt that I cannot be everywhere, know everything, organise everyone. It's weird to admit that up until this point I was convinced, absolutely convinced, that if I only tried hard enough I could occupy multiple spaces at once.

Cat physics =/= human physics

I can't. I can try, and it will improve productivity, but there is an upper limit. That was my first lesson of the week, and the second followed on: I have to rely on other people.

On the face of it, this is a pretty obvious thing to say. I wouldn't have got to this point without total reliance on my parents (cheers Mum and Dad!), and I daily rely on bus drivers, lecturers, and a small army of internet-pixies to provide me with soothing cat pictures.

Ah. Soothed.

Yet putting this week together in the very limited time span I had meant relying, and relying heavily, on the brilliant members of my team and my effective and enthusiastic line manager. They absolutely blew me away with enthusiasm and encouragement - encouragement that included the line "You know, you should probably sleep."

The limited time span also limited who I could invite. Great speakers identified by the team turned out to need more than a week's notice (who knew!), which meant there wasn't the range of speakers I'd hoped for. With that being said, feedback has been mostly good, and if I were in a position to run it again next year I would start organising in about September.

It's also laid bare for me the truth that everyone moves at different paces, and some people are impossible to chivvy along. At that point it becomes a struggle, because moving at the pace of the slowest means no movement at all - but not everything can be done last minute in a panic. It's a tough balance to find. I'm making progress.

Finally: horses. This has really been hammered home to me today but all through the week, despite the calibre of the speakers, we struggled to fill seats. Some workshops had sign-ups of 25 and saw attendance at 20% of that. It's really, really frustrating, and obviously it lowers our standing with outstanding speakers. That's really, really annoying.

This problem is way more of a mystery, because I have to get inside the head of someone who signs up for a talk or workshop and then wilfully ignores reminders about it. Why do it in the first place? It's a puzzle. Perhaps it's our fault, for not engaging enough with students. Maybe next year there'll be t-shirted AUSA volunteers invading lecture halls.

I'm going to miss being a student because, whatever happens next, that part of my life is over. Whatever happens next, it's been an absolutely brilliant time, and if you're only just starting now - get involved with your Association or Union. Learn how to manage your time, organise a team, and run an event. Be the change.