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5 september 2018
Afscheidsblog Albert-Jan

Sitting at the bar of a restaurant I’ve worked at for five years, I recall the moment of exactly one year ago: my last day at that restaurant. Back then I also thought “Well, this is it then”. Saying goodbye to one hell of an experience, and hello to the start of something new; the Student Union, and what a year it has been. Of course, I’ve started with expectations about how this year would be, talking with colleagues about how cool it would be to be responsible for four buildings, more than 10,000 students, and a budget of multiple millions. But when I look back, those were not the things that made the past year the best. 

The biggest contributors to that are the people that I’ve been able to meet. Words just can’t describe these special moments, both highs and lows. But to give you a glimpse of the diversity: starting the day with small talk at the coffee machine with Els, the cleaning lady of the Bastille, to the strategic negotiations with the executive board of the university in the afternoon and ending the day at the office with the best colleagues, who grew to be my second family. Everyone I’ve worked with contributed to this past year’s challenges and experiences. Moments I can’t thank them enough for. 

As a student, being able to operate as equals on literally every level of the university is such a unique opportunity. Taking initiative with these kinds of responsibilities really allows you to develop yourself as a person. I never was a guy who reflected a lot on what I was doing, or where these actions were taking me, but the Student Union allowed me to take on projects that triggered me into thinking this way. Learning by doing, as I would call it. The projects that brought me most fun were those which directly benefitted students. For example, chairing the UT Challenge, renovating the Watersports complex by adding indoor sports facilities, and acquiring new tennis courts and a new hockey field. But as Student Union board member you’re also challenged to initiate long-term projects, which students often don’t see right away. During my year we’ve started the internal reorganization of the Student Union, initiated a Centre for Entrepreneurship together with Novel-T and NIKOS to make entrepreneurship more accessible to students and rewritten housing policy for international students together with the UT. And while not directly visible to all students, I’m certain that one day in the near future they’ll reap the benefits.

Proud is how I feel looking back. My expectations for the year didn’t even come close to what it turned out to be, both on a personal level as a professional one, in a positive way. Looking forward, enough challenges await my successor. I’m confident that Arthur will do a great job and I’m hoping that he’ll enjoy his year as much as I did mine. While saying goodbye is never easy, in the end, I’m very grateful to have experienced something that makes saying goodbye so very hard.