Completing the incredible team of the 13th Board of ESN Rotterdam, it is time for the Treasurer of ESN, Katya together with the Partnership Manager, Rhys to talk about their Board experience. Enjoy!
What was your favorite ESN experience in general and on the board?
R: I would say that my best ESN experiences have been related to meeting new people at events. There’s always uncertainty when you meet new faces at first but exposing myself to these activities enabled me to learn a thing or two from every interaction. As a board member, my best experience was organizing the first big events of the year like ESN Summer Introduction Days. It was my first real experience with event organization and making sure I was able to deliver on my responsibilities. Being put in a position where I had to work with the other board members helped me to develop a better understanding of not just how I work in a group but how the others worked. Though, if I really had to really pick a specific board member related experience, it would have to be any one of the national platforms that we attended as a board. In those kinds of relaxed environments, we stuck together and got to meet members of ESN sections in other cities. What about you?
K: For me, my best board experience was working with like-minded, motivated board members who were passionate about making ESN Rotterdam succeed even with the disadvantages of corona. Everyone was always eager to help and make the best out of all our events. Also, it was amazing to work in a team where everyone always stays on top of their tasks and thinks of creative solutions to keep EUR students entertained – online or in person. ESN-wise, it was ESN Summer Introduction Days. We had to organize everything, from pancake boat to sports day to city tour. It was also the first event where we got to interact and meet first year students, some of whom have just arrived in the Netherlands. I enjoyed providing a platform for giving them advice and guiding them around the city. The whole experience was very fulfilling; you could literally see the happy faces of participants when they were talking and making new friends. It was worth it to see all our effort and 2-month planning pay off. Although, I should point out that several adjustments had to be made to the final version to meet the requirements of corona regulations.
How did you manage to combine the board year with your student life?
R: Integrating my board position with student life was not difficult. In my bachelor’s degree, I always had something going on the side whether it was my involvement as a committee member or an internship. Not sure if you can relate Katya, I know you still had some stuff to do for IBA, right?
K: Yeah, but it was also relatively easy to combine a part-time board position with my student life. This year I am finishing up my 3rd year of bachelors at RSM. This means that whilst doing my board year I also did a minor, wrote my thesis and completed a bunch of other IBA courses. I think that ESN really gives its active members a lot of flexibility in terms of when you can do your tasks.
Which committee did you take charge of and why?
R: Oh psht, easy. The career committee was a natural choice for me. I was able to leverage what I learned in previous committees and apply that to this one. There is a difference between being responsible for a committee and being involved in one as a member. Trying to curate a more professional image of ESN Rotterdam would very much be tied to the efforts of the career committee as I tasked them with finding interesting speakers from various industries so that students could learn more about the available career paths post-graduation.
K: This year I oversaw the sports committee, which thinking back was probably the most suitable and fun choice for me personally. Back in high school I used to play on my school’s volleyball and basketball teams.
As board members, what were some of the challenges you faced?
R: In trying to organize consistent, professional events, I did not expect the degree of pressure that I had put on myself. While I wanted to ensure that I could have professional events month in and month out, behind the scenes that would require a large amount of coordination between myself, the committee, and with the Marketing Manager.
Building awareness for events is crucial and ensuring that I could lock in a speaker or company, gather marketing materials, and develop a marketing timeline with the Marketing Manager were all pressures that I had not felt before. Ultimately, I decided to reorganize the objectives of my committee and give them responsibility of organizing these events in the latter half of the year. That allowed me to focus on seeking new partners for ESN Rotterdam.
K: I can completely relate to what Rhys is stating here when it pertains to the challenges I faced with my committee and the board in general.
What did you each learn this year?
R: I think the one important concept I learned over the past few months is adaptability. In the context of events for example, there is only so much preparation and planning you can do. You have to learn, and accept, about the elements you can control and those that are out of your hands. Expecting the unexpected always helps but being able to handle it in a real-life situation is where the learning comes in.
K: I have learned how to effectively work in a team and allocate tasks to run successful events. I think that ideas flow best when everyone gets the chance to speak instead of just one person dictating how everything should be. Oftentimes, during team meetings I would identify the scheduling or the activities that did not make sense, be outside of the budget or would not be as engaging as others. Additionally, I think that this year especially I have grown to appreciate the difference of opinion more than ever before. Our board was made up of 9 nationalities and I think that this really played to our advantage as we bounced off each other and shared our diverse perspectives. In the end that is what ESN is all about – dedication to the needs and interests of international students.
What did you think about being part of a student organization that belongs to a network?
R: ESN the Netherlands is responsible for overseeing the various ESN Dutch sections. Attending the National Platforms they organize is always a fun way to meet the people who you can arguably relate to the most. Participating in the community meetings organized by the Partnership Manager of ESN the Netherlands for example is a great way to bounce ideas off each other, especially when it comes to reaching out to new partners or sponsors. Anything you want to add to that Katya?
K: I think one part that students do not really know when they join ESN is that actually our student association goes way beyond just the Rotterdam section. In the Netherlands alone we have 18 sections in cities like Amsterdam, Maastricht, Breda, and more.
In terms of collaborations with other associations and organizations this year, how was that for each of you?
K: This year the Sports Committee has done several collaborations with student associations on campus and abroad! Most notably, we have collaborated with Erasmus Extreme on a Challenge Week and with ESN Mechelen on a live workout. I do not think you had too many collaborations with student associations, right Rhys?
R: Nah not really. In terms of collaborations, most of mine were with companies and business partners. The first few professional events I organized had subtle, overarching themes such as career progression from an industry expert’s point of view, advice on finding the right job opportunities, and being female in male dominated industries. I am hoping that in the future, we can build from these collaborations and organize more engaging activities. Hopefully, this can lead to a narrowing of the knowledge gap for students who are pursuing part-time work, internships, or entry-level jobs. The transition from being a student to building a career is intimidating and it is beneficial to understand how things work post-university life.
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