Hello and Goodbye: Reflections from the 2019-20 Student President

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Fatimah with her friends on campusMy initial reaction to the request of writing a blog post about my experience as student body president was- “I have to come up with something quirky with nuances of deeper meanings that would resonate with everyone.” You may be wondering- why put so much pressure on yourself? Simply convey your thoughts in a fashion that is weaved in simplicity. Alas, there is added pressure because I have cultivated a reputation that precedes my skills when it comes to penning down my thoughts. As of today; before some students recognise me as a student leader, they see me as the ‘loud’ blogger that always has something to say. Well, ladies and gentlemen, they are not wrong- I am loud and I always have something to say and as long as I have my voice- I will use it; so, I advise you to make yourself a cup of tea before we begin…

Students socialisingAs someone that was susceptible to the volatile nature of the British weather for quite a few years, I must say when I moved to Dubai as cliché as it may sound, the glowing sunlight really beautified everything in me. There is something powerful about the positivity of light. It enriches all- making anyone and anything look vibrant. Before I decided to embark on the journey towards being the President of the Student Association, there was one thing about me that, I had to make sure would be able to handle the responsibilities of being a leader: my mind. One’s mind is their primary driver it steers their direction, if I didn’t think I was stable enough to be a candidate, you wouldn’t be reading this, and there is absolutely no shame in that.

After a few weeks of constant self-reflection, self-therapy, looking at myself in the mirror and asking- “is this really what you want?”, “can you do it?”. I ended with a conclusion, “If I can think it then I can will it.” I have always thought of being a leader, so I didn’t decide to become one on a whim, it wasn’t to polish my ego or boost my popularity. I decided to become a leader because I recognised that I could do so. To speak on behalf of the students, to help them articulate their thoughts and represent their interest with the administration. Being a leader entails that you lose a little bit of your freedom, you no longer think for yourself but also others. For example, when we were planning the Winter Wonderland party- we had to stay late, to make sure the budgeting was right, the decorations were up to per and the ambience that we intended on creating would be realised. Late nights in which, all I wanted was to be in my comfortable bed buried in my pillows.

Christmas party, December 2019Consequently, there were moments in which I had to compromise my perspective on things and let the general consensus on a matter take precedence. The most important lesson I have learnt through my time as your president is patience. I have learnt to recognise, listen, digest and then assimilate.  We all have different ways of conveying our thoughts and grievances, we have different ways of criticising and praising. As the president, I have learnt to analyse and decipher what the students want, by not just listening but also watching, by keeping my ears open. Yes, it sounds a little creepy, however, being attentive as a leader is what makes you feel connected to your people. It makes them feel regarded, it makes them understand that they matter, something many world leaders are lacking at the moment.

Students in the common roomNonetheless, this is the last I shall collectively speak to you all, so I would say this; as I walked through the hallways of the university pre-pandemic- I noticed the humanity in all of you. The compassion that outshines callousness. I saw the way you gently spoke to each other, I heard the ringing of your laugher across the building. I witnessed the geniality of your intellect; I saw the way you respected your lecturers and in turn, commanded respect for yourself. Every one of you has the power of becoming a leader as long as you continue to reflect on your minds.

Before I sign off, I would like to use this opportunity to show my immense appreciation for my other student leaders- Danielle, Tanvi, Sonali & Rahil. They stood tall by my side, they helped in realising my ideas, they created an environment in which I could rely on their intellect to steer the direction of tasks. Their zeal to lead in an equitable fashion that echoes the concept of egalitarianism is awe-inspiring.

On that note, in the spirit of globalism exhumed by UOBDubai; Shukran, Merci, Danka, Ese, Kansamita, Dhanyavaad, Na Gode, Graci, Gracias and Thank You, it has been an honour.

Good luck!

Written by Fatimah, BSc Economics 

Profile picture of Fatimah Shittu


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