Gaebriel will be leaving their position as UCASU President Surrey on 27 May 2022.
It is with a heavy heart that I announce that I will be leaving my position as your President Surrey a bit early. This year has been a massive series of ups and downs, but it has been an immense pleasure serving this student community. My official last day will be next Friday, 27 May.
When I first joined UCA, I saw the president at the time and said to myself 'I'm going to be the President'. Did I expect myself to actually follow through with that plan? Absolutely not. I completely forgot the Students' Union existed until my final year. I was lucky enough to land a position as a Junior Designer here and was convinced to run by my colleagues and friends. This position is nothing like what I expected, but I wouldn't trade this year for anything. I posted a wrap up of my year on my President blog (but let's be honest, who reads that? exactly) so if you've seen this before, no you haven't.
This year has been something else, I've done things I never thought I would do, and experienced things I never thought I would experience. So, lets run through each month and the highlights, shall we?
Trigger Warning: mentioning spiking, depression.
Freshers season! Never have I ever slept so poorly in my life. Almost every week, I was travelling to each campus, meeting new students, going to events, pretending to be an extrovert. It was A LOT, to say the least. It was great to see so many new people get used to campus life, however, I've never given so many directions to RG03 in my life. It was in September that the spiking epidemic hit it's peak at Glasshouse. I spent most of my hours working with the SU team to create an anti-spiking campaign and implement the Something Not Right scheme. This was one of my hardest months as President, not knowing where to turn, being asked by so many students how I'm going to fix this problem, and feeling like there was nothing I could do to help the students affected. When I brought this issue to the Board of Governors, I felt even worse. I was told because there was no physical or recorded evidence of these occurences, there couldn't be an issue as there was no proof. It took a while for the Board to come to the realisation that spiking was just a symptom of a bigger culture problem. This became an ongoing conversation between myself, Sol, and various members of UCA staff.
Black History Month! Sol and I put together 3 workshops on topics like Microaggressions, Allyship, and Decolonisation. Myself and Sabina also did a more catered lecture on Ethnic Typography. Thank you to everyone who attended those workshops and asked questions. It was great to be in community with you and have those conversations. I ended October extremely wiped out, so I took some annual leave and travelled up to Edinburgh for a week and a bit. I really didn't want to leave if I'm completely honest.
I came back from Scotland in the second week of November and my mentor Steve was in town. For those who don't know, Sol and I receive support and mentorship for our roles as Presidents by none other than Steve Coole (Former Farnham SU President when UCA was Surrey Institute of Art & Design). It was fantastic getting to work with him in person and build a foundation for myself. I also worked on the Disability History Month campaign and helped build the Mental Health & Disability toolkit that now lives on the website (shout out to my therapist for reading over a bit of it for clarity). Then the month took a turn for the worst as I was told my dad was diagnosed with Cancer, I was a bit too busy with campaigns to take proper time off, but I flew home to be with my family while still attending meetings for the University. I was exhausted, burnt out, and unable to really function. November was another really hard month, mentally, but we move!
December was a short month thanks to the break, I was able to recuperate a bit. I prioritised getting to know students and building SU awareness on campus. I attended some nights at Glasshouse, met some great students, travelled to Epsom more often, etc. And before break, we had a Christmas Do as a staff team where I witnessed my first Panto... That was definitely an experience... I ended the month by flying back home again, this time as a proper break, which was much needed.
I honestly don't remember January, besides going to Folkestone to catch Sol's show, which was fantastic. I've really come to like the Canterbury/Folkestone area! I was also spending quite a lot of January out with my housemates in London... That may be why I don't remember it.
At the beginning of the month, we welcomed in the new students of the International College as well as the February intake students. Again, we travelled from campus to campus to help the new students settle in nicely. I celebrated my birthday in the second week of February by going back to Edinburgh, then consequently catching covid... After not having it for two years I really thought I had avoided it, I was wrong, and it hit me like a bus.
March started off with the NUS Student Strike for Education. It was great to catch up with the Sabbatical Officers from Sussex who we met previously in Reading, as well as speak out for student needs! I was then told that my visa application was granted and I could start planning my next two years in this country. And thus, I started to freak out... With 4 months left of my time as President, I had no idea what was next. I didn't have a flat lined up, nor a job, or any plan. I spiraled. I started frantically applying for jobs, setting up flat viewings, all of that on top of going to meetings and working on campaigns. Saying I experienced at least one panic attack a day is not a lie. March was another extremely hard month, nothing was lining up the way I needed it to. But, after realising that 4 months is still a generous amount of time, I was able to enjoy Queer Prom (rodeo penis... IYKYK) as well as the NUS National and Liberation Conferences in Liverpool.
Besides the campaign work and meetings with SU and University staff, April was a pretty quiet month for me. It gave me time to plan my time after Presidency and figure out some fail-safes. I met up with our friends from Sussex in Brighton, attended a demo, talked about the future of the student movement, it was a really great time. I then spent a couple of days near the end of the month in New York to celebrate my sisters birthday. This was the first time I was able to celebrate with my sister since 2020, and the long plane ride was absolutely worth it. When I touched back down in the UK, I received a message saying that my grandmother had passed away. I haven't been able to see her since 2019, and although our family has been preparing for this for years (she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dimentia around 2008) it still knocked me back a bit. April ended on a much higher note, I secured my next steps after Presidency, my dad finished Chemo, a lot of things are looking up!
Now we're here! We celebrated at Union Awards, wrapped up all of our manifesto campaigns, met the incoming President Surrey and exchanged ideas, and accepted a new position. I'm realising now I can't remember half the things I did this year, because there's simply too much to keep track of. I guess all I can really say is thank you. Thank you for being there, for being engaged, and for supporting me every step of the way. I will miss walking into a pub and hearing 'Oh you're the President of the SU right?' followed by either a story from a night out at Glasshouse or a thank you for a campaign that supported them.
Now the next steps! I have accepted a position as a Designer at ON, a design-tech company in the newly minted Design District of Greenwich. If you happen to go to the O2 for a concert, shout my name and I might hear you! Thank you again for all your support and engagement. You have made this year unforgettable.
President Surrey 21/22