As the academic year draws to a close, final projects are handed in, and the last few exams are sat, it’s only natural to reflect on the year gone by. Most of us have clocked up more library hours than we care to remember and spent too many nights in Metric that we wish we remembered more of. We’ve all made a new friend, learnt something new and had a new experience. As Imperial students, not only do we grapple with some of the most academically challenging university courses in the UK, but collectively, we also find time to run over 300 different clubs and societies ranging from IC Rugby Club to DramSoc to CheeseSoc. As if this point needs restating, but contrary to what your academic tutor might tell you, university is about much more than just getting your degree.
However, are we somewhat overlooking an important aspect of university life here at Imperial? Ask yourselves this simple question: have you done any volunteering or other socially beneficial activity over the past year? I know some students do an absolutely awesome job in terms of fund raising and volunteer work, but are enough of us doing our bit? I, for one, must hold my hands up and confess to not having directly been part of any socially beneficial activity over the past academic year.
So this begs the question, why don’t more of us get involved in social activities? And more to the point, should we be getting more involved?
It’s not hard to work out the number one reason students give for not volunteering: “I don’t have the time”. In a national survey on volunteering (performed by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement), 79 per cent of all non-volunteers asked said their main barrier to volunteering was a lack of time owing to study pressures. I could spend the rest of this article debating the time pressures on students and discussing what activities should take priority but, to be frank, that would be boring. Only the enviable minority possess that illusive skill of being able to successfully time manage. The rest of us, however, will forever be doing those all nighters in the library the evening before a deadline... The point is, lack of time is really just a poor excuse. The real issue is that doing things of social value is not currently embedded in our university culture. It is not yet the norm and so only those who are super pro-active are getting involved.
So should this change? Should socially beneficial activities be an important part of student life? Well, after thinking about this for a while (a few days), I’m actually struggling to find reasons not to get involved in socially beneficial activities. In the name of balanced argument, if anyone can think of something please let me know, but otherwise I am just going to go ahead and list the reasons why we should all be social warriors. (Yeah I used the term ‘social warrior’, what of it?)
• To improve things and help people: Blindingly obvious. Doing something that is good for the world makes you feel good. Everyone’s a winner. In fact, 95% of students who do volunteer have said this is their number one motivation.
• Developing skills: The number and type of skills that can be learnt through organising or being part of a socially beneficial activity are endless. Furthermore, the icing on that cake is that talking about things you learnt whilst eg. volunteering is interview conversation heaven. Employers love this kind of shit.
• Gaining work experience / developing CV: Competition for internships and summer work has never been more fierce. If you didn’t bag that investment banking internship, what better way to spend a summer than by getting involved in some charity work? I bet you’d learn just as much, probably more.
• Meeting new people and making friends: Self-explanatory. Who doesn’t want more friends?
• To enhance learning from your university course: Why not tie in some socially beneficial work with your studies. Hey, we’re all fairly good at science and maths, why not get involved in a mentoring program and share your passion (or ‘passion’ as the case may sometimes be) with some younger people?
So this all sounds great. Well, at least I’ve convinced myself that I want to volunteer some of my time to a good cause and hope, to some small extent, I’ve convinced you too consider doing so too. And so, apart from “lack of time”, why are lots of us not already involved in these kinds of activities? Well, other commonly used reasons include lack of connection between volunteering and academic studies or careers, and also lack of awareness about how to get involved. However, here at Imperial that’s all about to change…
The Imperial Hub has arrived on campus and is here to revamp the image of student powered social action. The Imperial Hub will be the new ‘go-to’ point for students interested in doing some kind of socially beneficial activity. It will be linking up existing societies in this area, setting up new projects and making it more fun, and easier than ever before to get involved.
In October we’ll be welcoming the first set of students paying fees of £9000 a year through our doors. The pressure to perform academically will be greater than ever before. However, this shouldn’t mean the quality of student life is compromised. Universities have a vital role to play in supporting social, intellectual and cultural life of students, alongside their academic studies.
Student activism has been the life-blood of organic change in our society and it’s down to us to make sure this continues. So whilst you’re lazing on a beach this summer, why not take 10 minutes to think about how you can get involved in some kind of socially beneficial activity next year? Let’s send a resounding message to the incoming freshers of 2012 that here at Imperial students are about more than just the science.
History of the Student Hub
Student Hubs was founded in 2007, originally in Oxford, by a group of students who had become frustrated at the lack of support for student volunteering and social action. A network of student groups formed, each focussing on different social and environmental issues – such as climate change, development, poverty, education, and homelessness.
It wasn’t long before the Oxford Hub model was re-interpreted and tested in other universities, where students felt the need to boost the culture of giving back and social action. In early 2008, Cambridge Hub, Bristol Hub and Southampton Hub were founded. More recently, in 2010 and 2011 both a Brookes Hub and Warwick Hub were launched. And now, in 2012, Imperial College will be the first London University to launch a Student Hub.About the Imperial Hub
Imperial Hub provides support to students and projects, aiming to be the complete guide to events going on at Imperial of an ethical, charitable or socially entrepreneurial nature.
Every Sunday Imperial Hub sends out ‘The Week’ to students subscribed to the Imperial Hub mailing list. This is an email summary of all the events on campus with an ethical or charitable focus, from talks to campaign actions, society meetings to conferences. You can sign up by going to the Imperial Hub website: http://www.imperialhub.org/
Over the next year Imperial Hub will be organising weekly talks, setting up a number of activities for students interested in social enterprise, and, in November, will be holding The London Climate Forum, an entirely student-run conference on Climate Change and Sustainability here in the Great Hall. If you are keen to get involved in these, or any other activities then get in contact with the Imperial Hub Manager, Rhiannon Horsley (email@example.com) or one of the interim Imperial Hub Co-ordinators Steven Tran, Pauline Vaskiou or Caroline Wood.
Imperial Hub will have a big presence on campus from October onwards, but if you want to find out more before about what it is before the summer break, come and join us at the Union on the from 5pm on Thursday 21 June for the Imperial Hub launch event.