Written by Csenga Gabeli, BSc Social Sciences
Every year students are elected as Full-Time officers, Student Leaders and Representative by fellow students. There is only one criterion for eligibility: you need to self-identify with the group you are applying to lead. But what is self-identification and how can you self-identify?
What is self-identification?
Self-identification is how you see yourself with someone or something. Simply put, it’s the belief to belong to a certain group.
There are many ways you can self-identify with the main ones being gender, sexuality, race, and disability. Whether you see yourself as a woman, BME, with a disability or not, self-declaring on the Union's website means that you can start voting for certain roles, or not vote for them. Eg. if you self-declare as a woman then you can vote for the Women's Officer role but those who self-define themselves as male cannot.
As students, it's important for us to self-identify as it's often a major component of who we are. For some, self-identification is easy eg. if you are a cisgender woman and you know and are comfortable in your identity as a cisgendered woman, but for others, it takes a long time, a lot of energy and tiring battles to figure out where you really belong for others. University helps with this. UCL is as a safe place where everyone is appreciated and diversity is cherished.
How can the university environment help you self-identify?
As university is a place where you should experiment with who you are, try out new things and figure out where you feel like home, I encourage you to explore your options. We have lots of societies and networks that are based on communities of self-identified and supportive students. Our LGBQ+ officer Xuyi Wang, the Trans officer Max Tscheltzoff, the Disabled Students’ officer Zohar Mendzelevski-Steinberg, the Black and Minority Ethnic Students' Officer Sandy Ogundele and the Women’s Officer, Nilisha Vashist. They all have networking events for which you could go, talk to them and enjoy their community. You can also contact them via email.
It is hard to become a part of an existing community, where you feel like everyone knows the other except you. But that is only because becoming a member of a community takes time just as everything else in life does. Community membership is just as rewarding if you put some effort and time into at as finally being able to successfully bake your favourite cake (maybe even more rewarding). But being able to self-identify yourself brings you not only self-fulfilment but also allows for self-development. It allows you to be an independent and strong person. More down to Earth benefits include the support they can provide for members. Networks and societies often held self-care events, discussion groups, and even mediation sessions. These events can help you through a harder phase in your life, as being with people who are like you provide a feeling of ‘everything will be fine’. For instance, I felt really alone after I moved here from Budapest but going to some of the Women’s Network meetings made me socialise a little and talk about issues that are important to me which helped me pass the initial ‘feeling alone’ time (+ I actually met my flatmate at the first-ever networking event last year J).
If you need more support, UCL Student Support and Wellbeing has several resources on providing help such as psychological, financial, or academic.
Reflect on who you are and think about what is important for you: this is the time in your life when you are encouraged to experiment without consequences (more or less).