The value of being an active student, taking part in committees
|Date:||05 April 2022|
Hi all! Let’s start with a traditional introduction first, shall we? I’m Erblin Ibrahimi, a 23-year-old MSc student in Computing Science: Data Science and Systems Complexity at the University of Groningen. Originally born in Kosovo, my parents came to Groningen when I was 7 months old, and we’ve stayed here ever since.
After high school, I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to study; the choice was split between Artificial Intelligence and Computing Science. I decided to try out the BSc in Artificial Intelligence first and deregistered from the programme in February after I realized that this programme wasn’t a good fit for me.
In the next academic year, I started my BSc in Computing Science. In my first year of this bachelor, I remember thinking that the most important part was to get very high grades. I believed that extra-curricular activities were for over-ambitious students who think that being involved in your degree programme is useful when nobody really cares about these activities. How wrong I was. Luckily, a close friend of mine was very involved in his degree programme and managed to convince me to at least try being involved by joining the Programme Committee (PC). Joining the PC as a student member is a good entry point for getting involved within the university, and it doesn’t take much time, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to give it a shot.
Joining My First Committee
Once the applications opened for joining the PC, I applied and was accepted as a first-year bachelor student. Initially, it seemed like a lot of boring bureaucratic work; assessing courses based on the evaluation forms students had filled in towards the end of a semester is not the most riveting activity. Although it was interesting to see what happens behind the scenes when a course is evaluated, I did not understand how being part of the PC could benefit my future in any way.
This soon changed, however. As time passed by, I noticed that because the professors knew me (even if they only recognized my face), I enjoyed following my courses more. They’ll think that you are one of the more “serious” students and respect you while being more open and friendly with you.
Since the professors know you better than most other students, you also become a “middleman” between them and the students. Once the students have an issue, it’s much easier to relay this information to the professor. Moreover, they are often willing to help you out whenever that is needed.
The Next Step
My experience in the PC helped me transition to joining the Curriculum Committee, Board of Appeals, taking on many Teaching Assistant positions, and more. Once you’re involved, it’s very satisfying to keep being involved, in any way possible. This is especially true when you see your efforts rewarded and the positive impact on the degree programme. My involvement also positively affected my own study results, which might seem counter-intuitive, given that I had less time to study. I learned to study more effectively, though and improved my time management skills significantly.
After My Studies
In the last year of my bachelor, I was looking into applying at multiple universities for my master’s degree. One of the key components of a good application is having excellent letters of recommendation. Because of my activity within the university (and my degree programme), many professors were willing to write a letter of recommendation for me.
Additionally, professors have many connections within their fields. Even if you decide not to continue with your studies by doing a masters (or other higher education), professors can still approach you (and vouch for you) whenever there are job offers available at good companies.
In hindsight, I am very glad that I decided to “take the risk” and get involved in the university through committees. It was a great segue into the next steps in my career and eventually led to me being accepted into a summer internship at one of the top semiconductor companies in the world (NXP). I might’ve been able to get there eventually if I had not partaken in any extra-curricular activities, but my experience at the university certainly accelerated the process and I have no doubt that it will help me out in the future as well. I encourage you to investigate how you can be active in your degree programme, and not underestimate its value!
I am happy to help you with any questions you have about the RUG or your kickstart in Groningen. You can contact me via my personal page.
About the author
I am Erblin Ibrahimi and I am a computer scientist from the Republic of Kosovo. I am incredibly lucky to have been blessed with the chance to grow up in a progressive country such as the Netherlands and fully intend on making the most out of the opportunities that have been presented to me. Once I finish my master's, I plan on moving back to Kosovo eventually, using the experience and knowledge that I have obtained here to give back to my mother country. The Teaching Assistant of the Year title that I have recently achieved will definitely come in handy and I hope to educate as many young and energetic students that are interested in my field as possible. I believe it is essential to inspire them to be the best version possible of themselves and most importantly: enjoy the process.
If you have any questions about the application procedure, studying and living in Groningen or anything else, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to help!