Active, Cognizant and Critical Citizenship

Imran Shamsul, who describes himself as a Representative Council enthusiast, wrote a blog on the beauty of RepCo and why representing your fellow members is worth doing. Nomination of candidates is open until September 29th and the elections are happening later this autumn.
Imran Shamsul with a speech bubble: "Your perspective is important"

Before we begin, a little introduction. My name is Imran Shamsul and I’m a fourth-year student in Collaborative and Industrial Design at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. I’ve been active in the student community during my brief studies here in Aalto, first as a board member in my study association and tutoring or supporting new students in some way each year. I’ve fallen in love with sauna while living in Finland over the past three years, and hopefully will build my own somewhere… somehow!  
I applied as a candidate to the AYY Representative Council (RepCo) in 2019 after a member from ProArte approached me and suggested that I run as a candidate. Fortunately, I was successfully elected and shortly after the elections attended my first meeting of RepCo. It is now two years on since I began my journey representing my fellow AYY members from the School of Art. I’ve been lucky enough to experience RepCo as a full member, group chair, board member of AYY, and now as a member of the central election committee. 

My main motivation to be involved at many different levels of AYY’s RepCo was to bring an international voice, perspective, and experience to our community. Aalto talks about how international the university is, and indeed that is true! Sadly, that is not always reflected in the different representative bodies, sections, and committees within the student union, nor is it always represent in our student associations.  

Yes, there are challenges being a non-Finnish speaker existing in a Finnish bureaucratic process. It will require more time and effort from you on top of, what I understand to be, a potentially demanding career as an international student. Especially as time as a student is costly — in some cases, literally in the form of tuition fees — and the pressure we put on ourselves can be a little high. There is support for you, and you can ask for help in terms of language, translations, interpretations, definition and understanding. The community is a supportive one and will work to support you if you ask.  
There is a specific purpose given to a student union in the Finnish University’s act (46.1) that I’d like to raise — it talks about “preparing students for an active, cognizant and critical citizenship”. While this may be in reference to being a citizen within Finland, the practices and processes are relevant for any individual to apply anywhere in the world. AYY, Aalto University, your student association… these are all places that are safe to grow yourself, grow your awareness of the world around you, practice being cognizant or conscious to what information you need to understand, and most importantly practicing the best way for you to engage with the structural world around you. This is a safe space to try, to fail, to learn, and to succeed in the process. It has helped me to better understand and navigate this world, and hopefully, guided me on how to better contribute to those around me in the best way that I can.  

The beauty of RepCo, all the advocacy and representative groups in AYY and Aalto, is that your perspective, your voice, and your experiences are important, valued, and listened too. So, representing your fellow members is worth doing, it will take courage, you will be in awkward and new situations, you may even feel excluded at times, but if something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t feel right, help is there you can speak up and ask!  
I’ve met many different people along the way and listened to many different perspectives, this has done nothing but enrich my worldview and perspective and grow my empathy for the world around me. Maybe RepCo is something that will support you on your journey too? Until then, good luck with your studies and I hope to see your name on the list when I’m voting!  

Imran Shamsul 

Central Election Committee Member & RepCo Enthusiast 

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