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How To #UniLyf

By Laura Kenny, Arts/Law IV

Before we collectively purchase enough coffee to float a small nation, let’s take a minute to talk about extra-curricular university involvement – spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically.

The hustle and bustle of the law building at this time of year is seductive. First years bristle with buzzing anticipation for the years to come, and old hands are able to enjoy the passing nods  and enveloping hugs that herald in the new semester. Besides the charming accoutrement of start of session (perfect stationary, clean bedrooms and fist-punchingly-good feelings of having done your readings), we all tend to wipe slates clean, set goals and scribble magnificent to do lists at this time of year.

For most of us, the regular hits of “become Beyoncè,”  “go running three times a week,” and “check self before wrecking self” would more than fill the spot. Succeeding in any one of the three would be more than enough to sate the ego and result in, we assume, eternal bliss.

For others though, the mind turns to the professional checklist, the Harvey Spector inside dons his ambitions and total lack of fear to ask you what you’ve done to improve your future prospects this week – month – year. Job applications hang over your calendar like a first date; you feel an existentialist crisis approaching; assessments loom behind the cataract of readings you’ve done less than half of.

It’s a hard time for all and with that in mind, I wanted to reflect on some of the good, bad, ugly and downright drop dead gorgeous things you can get out of non-academic involvement at university. Especially for those law students in their first and second years of study, juggling the ominous feeling that you ought to be doing more to improve your legal skills, earning money and stepping into the ‘Extra-Curricular’ unknown can be daunting. With your horizons already edged with ideas of paralegal positions for experience, bartending jobs for the tunes, and tutoring jobs for the altruistic satisfaction, what does getting involved in student societies, clubs or organisations really offer you?

F I N D   Y O ’   P E O P L E

Firstly, when you get involved in leadership positions, student societies and clubs or volunteering opportunities, you connect yourself to the kind of people you really want to meet. UNSW Law is a breeding ground for exciting things to do. The Law Society is a splendid way to get involved in your passions: social justice issues, performing arts, creative pursuits, writing, organising and administration of exciting events, student advocacy, competitions, charities and more. Clubs and Societies are about finding the niche that you were hoping was just around the next corner but hadn’t spied yet. How does finding people who you genuinely share passions and interests (and most likely pet hates with) impact your motivation and state of mind? Elaine knows:

At UNSW, the available extra-curricular options are more plentiful than dieter’s appetite on cheat day, so check out your options.

T I M E   M A N A G E   L I K E   A   B A W S

Secondly, one of the hardest lessons of student life is learning to balance priorities; getting involved in activities that encourage you towards your natural interests is a sure-fast way to accelerate your ability to discern priorities better and faster. Whether you get involved in extra-curricular pursuits or not, your University career will be a time of stress and joy, commitment and leisure and the ability to assess the pros and cons of your pursuits is an invaluable aid, because oftentimes you find that something’s gotta give.

S K I L L S ?   d . ) a l l  o f  t h e  a b o v e

Thirdly, experience, experience, experience. The experience you gain from getting involved, interpersonally and organisationally, will provide you with enough examples of team work, cooperation, negotiation, prioritisation, project management, time management, innovation and practical problem solving to supply you with material for more job interviews than you could shake a stick at.  Above and beyond the ‘looks good on paper’ appeal, you are able to have real accomplishments to your name; the kind you really want to be able to say “I did that one time.” Want to be in a band? Do it. Write a play? Do it. Want to make tiny little perfectly decorated cupcakes for a cupcake decoration convention? Do it. This is a time of life to take your most absurd ambitions by the proverbial and make them do a tap dance.

P R O F R I E N D S I O N A L I S M

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, you learn an incredibly valuable trick that will make you appealing to employers, more fun to be around and more flexible and empathic as a worker and as a person. [Drum roll please] That is… to be able to have multiple modes of relationship with people at once. I call this ‘Wearing Multiple Hats at Once.’ When you have any level of responsibility in student organisations, you will be required to conduct yourself with professionalism, reliability and accountability, but it will almost certainly be amongst friends and acquaintances.

The jarring experience of wearing the friendship and the professional hat at once, is something that is best to come to terms with now, before you accidentally fall in love with a colleague in six years time. Although the most abstract of the reasons to get involved at uni, I believe this is also the most important. If you get on very well with someone socially, but clash professionally, or vice versa, you find the dynamic of your working relationship is both the hardest, and most rewarding thing to navigate. To come head to head with someone over issues you have a hand in determining will imbue in you new a confidence. This could be for selecting volunteers for a program, handing out awards, selecting the destinations of your financial resources, or just how you want to talk to each other.

In summation, be better at life. How? Start acting like the person you want to be underneath. Soon enough, it will be actualised. PEACE OUT.

Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraRacquel.

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