Letters from the dorm: 'Student politics trains us for life'

Letters from the dorm: 'Student politics trains us for life'

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Isabel Lai bids farewell at last month's AGM.
Isabel Lai bids farewell at last month's AGM.
Photo: Isabel Lai
Last month I had the pleasure of participating in the annual general meeting (AGM) of Durham University Hong Kong Society. The AGM reviews achievements made by the executive committee and elects a new team for next year.

I remembered exactly a year ago, when I was sitting nervously waiting for my turn to go up on stage and convince members of the society why they should vote for me to be their external secretary.

Elections for each executive committee position feature two sections. First, contenders make a three-minute speech outlining their ambitions if they were to be successful. Second, they must face questions from the floor, which may stump even the most well-prepared candidates.

This year I sat on a panel in front of the stage as candidates made promises that would define the future of our society. As part of the current executive committee, we served as a sounding board to test the feasibility of their bold plans.

Each round is put to a vote and, like any competition, there are winners and losers.

The crux of the issue is whether there is any value to student politics. Some say it corrupts young minds and robs students of their innocence. What exactly is the point of engaging in politics when you're so young?

Well, students get an opportunity to project their visions for the society; they symbolise the future, so they should have a right to illustrate their own strategies for the development of the organisation.

Other society members, acting as election spectators, are able to decide whose plans they wish to be implemented. When candidates attain a certain number of votes, they subsequently have the mandate to "rule", or rather, make future decisions for the society.

I am totally in favour of student politics, not because I once won an election. The main advantage is it gives students a rare opportunity to make themselves heard. Good ideas are meant to be shared, so what a better occasion than a big audience willing to listen to you. It's a test of your critical-thinking skills and your reaction to tricky questions. This process can help boost your confidence, if you handle it well.

University is all about preparing students for the competitive adult life, and especially for the tough job market, out there. Similar to real politics, there will always be a winner and a loser.

It may seem small and pointless at this stage of our lives, but it is precisely the process of student elections that trains us to become future leaders of our national, even international, community.

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