“Whether you’re looking to join a committee, a board, or just to become a passive member, we’re looking for students like you to join us,” announced the organisers of the event on their Facebook page. And while students usually jump onto opportunities to gather, network and connect, this year things took an unusual turn. Due to the pandemic, the associations had to get creative and transferred the event to an online environment.
The Association Week 2020, which took place from 15 through 20 September, was open to attendees via Zoom. Each day had its own theme: business and career development, sustainability and social impact, faculty, entrepreneurship and technology, international and cultural communities, and education and personal development. Over thirty student associations participated.
Games and presentations
Each one gave a 20-minute presentation describing who they were, what they did, and answered questions coming from students. But most importantly, they shared information on how to join them as a part of a committee or a passive member. At the end of the day, everyone had a chance to take part in a digital pub quiz and answer various questions about the student associations. Although a lot of students joined Zoom meetings, most of them were passive listeners. A majority did not feel like turning on their cameras or sharing their thoughts. Even the Q&A sessions were mainly held via chat.
Every association chose a unique way of interacting with students. Some organised live games. For example, LifeVersity invited students to participate in a public speaking game, where the volunteering student had to quickly and creatively come up with a speech, while being presented with random pictures on the screen, such as fast food, bees or toxic barrels.
A safe space to share ideas
Some associations posed interactive questions to start online discussions and conversations. And despite the initial awkward silences, these brief presentations eventually transformed into a welcoming platform for sharing ideas and perspectives. “When was the last time you felt lonely?” the question came from one of the members of Extraordinary life. Attendees openly spoke about when they last felt lonely, what they’ve learned from being a part of an association, or how their lives changed after joining the association. “I am in a call with twenty people but behind the screen, I’m still lonely,” confessed Alicia, one of the participants.
One common thing that every representative of a student association spoke about was their welcoming and accepting attitude, ready to invite members with no judgement, creating a sense of connectedness and community. In turn, students were curious to find out how to contribute and help committees achieve their long-term goals, such spreading awareness and breaking stigmas. “Challenge your predispositions, because you cannot even imagine how much you can learn from different perspectives. Being a part of the association can put you in a place that makes you question your own opinions and I think that is the only way to grow,” said Chloe. “Always speak up, always be your true self,” said Clemens.
Besides the opportunity to connect with likeminded peers, students who share a passion for the same type of sport, or come from a same national background, student associations also offer a lot of fun and practical activities. They host soft skills trainings, guided meditations, cooking workshops, provide psychological support, and even a space to discuss taboo topics.
On Sunday evening, the event was closed. “I am so used to having acquaintances, but it’s good to have a group of people who you can go back to no matter what,” shared Gunansh, briefly summarising probably one of the most important messages the associations tried to deliver to students during this virtual networking days.
Were you unable to attend the event? Follow this link to see the list of the participating student associations to find out more or maybe even join them.