Being your Director of Student Development and Activities this year has been an absolute privilege. From drafting my manifesto prior to running, all the way through to being able to see my ideas come to life, my year as a Sabb has been an amazing journey and one that I will be forever indebted to – not only for teaching me so much but also for allowing me to meet so many wonderful people.
That being said, Sabb life is weird. Weird in the best way possible, but weird nonetheless. Your calendar and meeting schedule run to the routine of essays and exams that you aren’t actually having to sit. Also, any routine you have can be upturned on the arrival of one email (more often than not, requiring you to run around the union, town or documents of the past on the hunt for something minimal but time critical) and your relationship with the Main Bar is an odd one – work is now where you play and vice versa. Long nights can be a thing, and seeing Freshers’ Week from the other side is an eye opener, but realising that the work you are doing can go some way to making other students’ time at University better is actually pretty special. I know this all sounds disgustingly clichéd but in a sabbatical post, if you can’t enjoy having the ability to help your fellow students, you are doing something wrong.
The part of my role that I’ve enjoyed most hasn’t been the long meetings discussing how best to maintain our student spend, nor has it been the lengthy process of putting together Freshers’ Fayres and orientation literature (although the end products were worth the administrative hassle): it has been helping students who wanted to get involved actually get involved. Whether they are in first year or the last year of a PhD seeing students getting involved in activities and gaining skills that they would never and could never have tried before makes it all worthwhile.
If I was to do the whole thing again there is very little that I would do differently. At the start of the year, I had a timeline of all the things that I wanted to do and when I thought they could be achieved – after two weeks in office I threw it away. This was not because I wasn’t getting anything done but because the role of DoSDA is so varied that meetings can unexpectedly run on (expect to get nothing done on a Wednesday – subcommittees take your life, in the best way possible) or students can come to the office for advice and guidance and as a result your plans for the day stretch later and later. My advice to those who are thinking about jumping aboard the sabbatical band-wagon, be it now or in the future, would be to use your time productively and not to start off with unachievable expectations. I guarantee that if you put your mind to it – your policies will happen but you must never forget that finishing off that last point on your manifesto can wait if the students you work with need something more.
I can’t believe my year in office is slowly coming to an end, but with that: good luck to each and every candidate this year – play fair, remember to sleep and have fun.
Director of Student Development and Activities 2015/6