As Area Association Representative for Wales for the last year, I have worked with fellow Wales-based volunteer, Gareth Jones (Faculty Association Representative For Business and Law) on a range of activities for students based in Wales, including Freshers events, Student Voice events, coffee mornings, competitions and quizzes. Due to the ongoing Covid restrictions during my term, all of the events organised during my term to date had been online. Gareth and I only met in person ourselves at the recent graduation ceremony in Newport!
As the end of our term on the Central Executive Committee (‘CEC’/Student Leadership Team) approached and with the lifting of restrictions on meeting in person, we felt the time was right to try to arrange a face-to-face event that coincided with Results Week for most students. We also arranged a quiz event online for those students who were not able to attend in person this time. We recognised the importance of celebrating hard work, marking this special time, and giving students the opportunity to share their experiences with others and to seek advice regarding next steps.
We worked with our staff contact at the Open University in Wales (‘OUiW’), the amazing Alayla Castle-Herbert, to arrange the first part of the event at the meeting rooms of the OUiW offices in the centre of Cardiff. The second part of the event comprised of a celebration social at The Yard pub nearby supported by volunteers and staff at the Students Association.
It was important for us to make it clear that this event was intended to be the first of many throughout Wales so that all students have the opportunity to engage in similar events in the near future and we included explanations of this in the event information together with a call out for future meet-up host volunteers.
“We are very eager to start reaching more of our students across Wales, so if you are interested in face-to-face meetups…..please get in touch.”
The event was promoted through the Association website, Students in Wales Facebook group, forums, social media and by direct email from the OUiW.
The linked events were held in the afternoon of the 22nd July and the meeting area at the OUiW offices had been prepared with drinks, cakes and lots of OUiW and Association goodies! Student Support Team members and Careers staff were on hand to answer questions and provide guidance where needed. OUiW staff had worked really hard to ensure the venue was accessible and welcoming. As we prepared for the first students to arrive (we hoped!) it was wonderful to see fellow volunteers Lucy and Kathy and Student Association staff Georgia and Pete in person for the first time after working together all year. It was also great to be able to meet the incoming CEC President, Margaret, and new Wales Rep, Raed. And as always, we appreciated the support and company of our outgoing President Sarah and Director of the OU in Wales, Louise. It was wonderful to be able to attend the event together as we are in the process of handing over our respective CEC roles.
Any worries we had about attendance rates were very quickly put to rest as a rush of enthusiastic OU students joined the event, filling the room with conversation and positive energy. We noticed how happy everyone was to meet others, chat and share their OU experiences. As students volunteers it was fantastic to be able to chat with students in person and recognise students from previous online events. We also had the opportunity to talk with others about elements of the event that could be kept or improved for the future which was so helpful.
Over 70 students attended this more structured part of the day and made full use of the support and advice services on offer!
We then moved on to the Student Association run social part of the celebration event, which was held at The Yard, a short distance from the OUiW offices. This was an opportunity to chat with other students and again, the event was really well attended with some students travelling two hours from West Wales to join us! (Diolch/Thank you!)
Thank you to all of the students who attended, those who expressed interest in attending similar events in the future or becoming meeting hosts to extend our events network throughout Wales.
Information about volunteering as a meet-up host in person or online is available on the Student Association website: All Volunteer Opportunities (oustudents.com)
We can’t wait for the next event.
See you soon! Gweld chi cyn bo hir!