365 Presidential Days

Name: Reema Quessou
Course: BSc Business and Management
Placement Position: President 2017/18
Location: Aston Students’ Union, Birmingham, UK

Post #1

Placement. Did I finesse it or did it finesse me?

As a BSc Business and Management student, a placement was compulsory. Lesson number one, if you’re reading this and have not been reminded already, start searching and applying now! It may seem too early but you’ll thank the heavens (and hopefully me too) when you have one. Something to note, don’t worry about all the rejections – every student receives them. If they say they haven’t, they’re a bloody liar…believe me! Second lesson, even if you don’t know what area/career you want to branch into, do a placement that you’re interested in or want to, you’ll thank yourself later!

The intention on applying to be Aston Students’ Union President was personal; I had experienced this and I knew I wasn’t alone. The larger clubs and societies had become powerful and there was a huge culture focused on irresponsible drinking, leaving the raw talent and passion for the sports and hobbies disoriented. This was the stigma I wanted to break.

Whoever invented coffee became my saviour. Without it I probably would have not made it through the world of 9am meetings, conferences and everyday life at work to be honest. Gradually weeks became easier to get up to, I came to understand office routines and the presidential responsibilities were such that the months flew by. Third lesson – this year will fly by, so cherish the good times and don’t forget to have as much fun as you can!

My placement role was different than anyone else’s because I was over-seeing a charity. Hence this blog doesn’t focus on the Presidential aspect but what I gained and learnt from working in a business. You really learn how to survive and work in the real world, sugar-coating doesn’t exist and you are doing jobs or taking on responsibilities that will affect the company you work for either positively or negatively. You work full time and, although you may still look like a student (my height was not an advantage), you are treated like an adult. The real world is scary but that’s life and this is why the year prepares you well.

Placement matched my expectations; it taught me lessons for the future, and also about myself. At times, I clashed with colleagues – there were conflicting opinions and we disagreed…but that’s human nature. Respecting each other’s cultures, understanding ways of working, and bonding with the office atmosphere was necessary but these issues would always be resolved immediately. Always ask if you’re ensure, and take the time to know colleagues on a personal level not just workplace. They’ll appreciate it instead of talking about the same shitty work issues.

Everyone knew at the Union that I had bonded with the Marketing Department; it felt like I had known them for years. In time, when you’ve made friends, you’ll start enjoying the job (even if you don’t like particular responsibilities) because you’ve got people that’ll help you get through it. When something had me down, I’d migrate to the third floor office and have tears from laughing all day with them. I dressed up as the girl from The Ring for a Halloween prank, had endless nerf gun fights, attended balls and events, even planned a final night for hundreds of final years with no previous experience. This department was the foundation of my successful Birmingham campaign, which was videos of affordable days out for students.

Memes were created, bloopers were included, and my inner child had the best fun. Importantly, students and staff loved the videos every time. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Completing my placement feels great and despite all the struggles and hard times, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve found out things about myself, found a possible career path, made incredible friends, and the amount of skills and knowledge I’ve picked up I didn’t even know was possible. Sure at the start the routine slapped me in the face, weekends became hard to adjust my personal life to and I had a love-hate feeling about it…but now, it’s done. Don’t forget to enjoy your year and make the most of it! I’ve got that one more thing on my CV – real life experience, and that’s more valuable than having perfect attendance, exam results and a great placement year…because they don’t exist.

I’m not perfect after this placement and neither will you be either, but nobody is. There’s always going to be someone better or smarter than you but stay true to yourself, expand your horizons, do the best you can and make the most of your placement year because you can’t repeat it.

Final year is something I am desperately waiting for, not just because of the all-nighters, skipping lectures (I live life on the edge you see) and Netflix binging days, but making memories in my final University year. After this, goodbye pasta diet and hello to the world of adulting where I’ll be mostly spending my money on alcohol, furniture and workwear!