My Sustainability Journey - Becoming a Student Ambassador
At the end of my degree, I look back to my last four years to see if there is anything there that I can polish into insight. I have grown quite drastically as a person during my time at Coventry; after all it is difficult to experience university for 3-4 years and come out the same person at the other end, so this is hardly surprising. But which of those experiences are worth talking about? I’m not sure, but one of the most noticeable changes I’ve gone through is that I talk about sustainability a lot more now, so I’ll do some of that here.
My first year at Coventry University is also my first year in the UK, and I spend a considerable amount of time getting my bearings. Between figuring out where to stay, shop, study, and relax, the academic year is almost over by the time I have settled in. I somehow manage to do some socialising, some volunteering, and even some studying in those first eight months. During the summer, I take some time off from a job that lets me afford rent, videogames, and occasionally food, and go to a volunteer training session that seems interesting.
This is how I suddenly find myself in a conference room with a dozen other students, learning about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals so I can join a team of Responsible Futures auditors to see how sustainable my university is. I interview staff, members of CUSU, and the Coventry University Environment Team and analyse the evidence presented to help the university retain its accreditation. The breadth of the work done by the university to uphold and promote the SDGs is staggering to me, and I become obsessed.
A few weeks pass, the university passes the audit, and now I am the one being interviewed by the CU Environment Team as a follow up to my interest in joining their efforts. By the time September rolls around, I am registered as a Student Ambassador for the Environment and Sustainability Team, and I am beyond excited. I join the small close-knit team as the only student ambassador at the time – although more join soon after – and start the most unique job experience I have had so far.
Over the course of my second and third year, the nature and scope of the work I do surprises me. I nip into the office between lectures to develop a new recycling campaign, or to analyse the publications from Coventry University researchers to quantify how sustainable the university’s academic contributions are. I map out the biodiversity around the university campus, cataloguing each birdbox and insect sanctuary. I discover the amazing goodness of loaded jacket potatoes responsible for the lunch rush at Kat’s Café on Alma Street. I work alongside council members, helping organise events such as the annual Green Week, spreading awareness of the many facets of sustainability that the local community can get involved in.
By the end of my degree, this job experience has broadened my horizons in a profound way. I now understand the dire need for sustainability in our infrastructure, in our communities, in our mindsets; and every choice I make – from how I stock my fridge and my wardrobe, to the area of renewable energy I tackle for my final year dissertation – is driven by this perspective and ethos. The set of skills I have developed in the flexible working hours with the incredibly supportive team as a student ambassador complements the technical knowledge from my undergrad and gives me an edge when I apply for placements and jobs. I have learned how to effectively lend my voices to the causes that further the cause of sustainability in all its forms – environmental, economic, and social.
If I was to point out the single most impactful decision I have made during my time here, it would be signing up for that voluntary training session, which led to the most fulfilling job I have worked at. Instead of waiting for a random chance like that, I would recommend you take the next step in your sustainability journey and become a student ambassador.