When I started my studies at Portsmouth, I didn’t think I would end up being a president of a society. I have immense anxiety and I’m petrified of public speaking, so being in a leadership position didn’t seem like something I could do. Turns out I was wrong and I’m actually quite good at it.
It all started when I joined the university’s Green Society. As an environmentalist and eco-blogger, I wanted to meet like-minded people who were passionate about the same sorts of issues as I was. Joining the society was great, I made new friends and went to events that were focused on environmental issues.
But when I noticed the president was going on placement and hadn’t organised a committee for the new year, I knew I had to step up. With global warming, plastic pollution, and species extinction, we need students to be aware and willing to make a difference. So, I nominated myself for president. I was nervous about it at first - to be honest I still am - but I knew it was something I needed to do so my nerves took a backseat.
Running a society is like having a job alongside your degree. Being behind the scenes, I quickly realised just how much dedication and hard work it takes. But it’s amazing for developing time-management and organisation skills and, as our society had been slowly falling apart before I got elected, there was a lot of work to do.
First of all, I rebranded the society from ‘Green’ to ‘Eco’. Many students thought the society had a political affiliation, but that wasn’t the case. So I changed the society’s name, logo, aims, and constitution all within a two-month period. This gave us a new lease of life and we even won society of the month for it, something I’m really proud of.
Aside from the rebrand, I chair our meetings and organise campaigns and events - a woodland walk during National Tree Week, for example. I’ve also spoken at local environmental meetings, and speak on the phone with other environmental groups like the Woodland Trust, People and Planet, Tree Wardens of Portsmouth, and the NUS. All this, despite my anxiety and stutter.
The thing I love most about my role is how passionate my team are about making change. Seeing them throw themselves into the activities we organise, and how excited they get, makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Don’t get me wrong, it has been disheartening at times too - especially when you organise a social and hardly anybody turns up. But if we make just five people’s university experiences better, then we’ve done our job right.
This position has given me so many opportunities and helped me understand I really can do anything I aspire to do. If you don’t think you can too, trust me, you can. And it’s so worth it when you do.