As an international student, Lina Charafeddine has taken on the role of Departmental Student Coordinator for the Psychology department and says it only enhanced her experience of Goldsmiths…
What led you to become a Departmental Student Coordinator?
I have previous experience being a representative at secondary school. But what made me want to be one at Goldsmiths is that I’m an international student and it was my first time coming to the UK. I didn’t know anything about London, and it took my first year to adjust to this whole new system… but I didn’t really feel like I got to delve into the Goldsmiths life or be a part of the community. So I wanted to contribute and offer help to any students who might be feeling this way.
How did your previous experience as a Rep at school compare to being a Departmental Student Coordinator at Goldsmiths?
I definitely didn’t have this much freedom at school. I wasn’t encouraged to be proactive, most of the people who were decision makers weren’t very flexible or willing to listen. They’d got used to a certain system and didn’t want to think beyond it. I had to fight extensively for change.
So when I became part of the SU I didn’t even fully understand how free I was. At Goldsmiths, if you can do anything to help, you’re free to do it. And if you think it’s going to benefit your situation, or anyone else’s, as long as it’s appropriate, the Students’ Union will have your back. When I understood that, it made me feel like I had a voice again, and that my voice had value.
What have you achieved this year as a Departmental Student Coordinator?
Well obviously the last year has been a bit strange! We were trying to work on what students needed in regards to the strike action and Covid-19. What I’m working on right now is helping the departments think about next year (2020-21) and how it can best meet the needs of all students for our department. For example, blended learning, distanced learning, how that would work for this year and how we could modify tutorials so that students would benefit most from them.
On a personal note, I really felt there has been a lack of communication between me, my peers and the faculty. I didn’t have a way to speak to my peers privately outside of university, to remind them that I’m here. From speaking to students I realised that there are opportunities that they don’t even know are there. So I set a time each week where I’m in the Library and if students want to get in touch with me, but don’t want to email, they can sit and talk with me about anything. I’ve also been trying to set up a portal to communicate with students online without needing access to their email addresses, which is impossible because of data protection.
What skills have you learnt and developed in the role?
Two fields that I’m really interested in are human resources and consultancy. They both depend heavily on human communication and contact, understanding and working in teams, being adaptable and flexible. Being a Departmental Student Coordinator has definitely helped me improve on skills that are required to get into those two fields.
Has being a Departmental Student Coordinator impacted your career plans for after Goldsmiths?
As well as helping me in terms of learning how to communicate with different audiences, I also now know what to do when you know you have a voice but other people don’t want to listen to you. I went from experiencing that I had to fight, to experiencing a place where most people wanted to listen to me but some don’t, or are maybe a bit defensive which is understandable. Everyone has a different way of wanting to be approached. The fact that I am listened here means that I have a clearer vision, and a desire to work in an environment that will require me to fight or challenge. I’m recharged, and I’ve regained my voice.
To read more about Academic Reps and find out who represents your department, look here for more info.