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Carolina Mantzalos - your Union President

Monday 2 November 2015

Carolina Mantzalos graduated from QMUL in 2014 and is your Union President. Last year she represented students as Vice President for Education. We sat down with Carolina to find out a bit more about her, her top tips for students, memories of QMUL and how she'll be supporting you over the coming year.

What did you study at QMUL?
I studied an undergraduate degree in International Relations.

What do you remember about your own first weeks at QMUL?
An abundance of people and an incredible sense of community. The Student Village on campus was buzzing, with endless amounts of people and activities allowing students to get involved. It was so welcoming and instantly made me certain that I had made the right choice when choosing where to study.

Can you give any words of wisdom to new students about their first few weeks?
Embrace the transition! Coming to university can be a big leap for many, but try and get involved with as many student activities as possible, to find where your interests lie, and get the chance to make new friends! Do not be afraid to try new activities that you have never done before, and make sure you get the chance to go into other parts of London, there is so much to discover!

I think it’s important for students to try new things, and step out of your comfort zone. There as so many incredible ways of challenging yourself, developing your interests, and having fun at the same time. I used to be very nervous of public speaking or approaching a group of people I had never spoken to before, and I have now run in two different elections!
What has been your favourite thing about studying here?
The way I have developed, both academically and personally. My last four years at Queen Mary have brought out the absolute best in me. I have learnt to love new hobbies, meet and get to know such an interesting diversity of individuals, and most importantly, have decided what I want to do for the rest of my life. I came to Queen Mary unsure of where I wanted to go after I would finish my degree, but by getting involved with the Union and building relationships with the university, I have realised that I love being able to represent students and help them in any way that I can to achieve objectives that can better their experience. I now know that I want to work in the student movement, and continue pushing and helping students out for many more years to come! 

What is your favourite place on campus or in the local area and why?
The canal by France House in the Student Village. It has an aura of tranquility, as well as a beautiful landscape. It is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of a crowded campus, and grab a bite to eat from one of the outlets here on campus.
How would you explain the role of the Queen Mary Students’ Union (QMSU) to new students?
The Students’ Union is here to improve students’ lives, and help support the student experience whilst studying at Queen Mary, whether academically or extra-curricular. The Union provides opportunities for students to get involved with other activities and interests (whether social or academic) alongside their degree and to develop skills for life after university. The Union is run by a Student Council (four full time and over 30 part time officers) who are here to represent you on a wide range of issues! Their details can be found at http://www.qmsu.org/.

Why do you think it can be valuable to get involved with QMSU?
I think this is fundamentally down to the skills that one can develop. I was heavily involved with societies and sport clubs, as well as working part time in The Village Shop, one of the Union outlets. The transferable skills I learnt have helped me not only in terms of personal development and shaping me as a person, but also in preparing me for future employment. More importantly, it is great fun and makes you feel part of a wider community!
What were your key achievements last year as Vice President for Education?
Addressing the issues around lack of study space and the need to increase library opening hours. There are now specific allocated rooms in the Bancroft Building for study space, and an extra 50 computers across the Hives and more planned to go into the Mile End Library. Over 2,400 students requested that library hours be extended to 24/7 all year round, and the university is now looking at the possibility of making this happen.
What will be your key responsibilities as President?
I really want to make sure that full time and part time officers feel more supported in representing students across the university, and that students are finding it more accessible to be part of the Students’ Union. There are many projects planned for this year which can be found on the following link: http://www.qmsu.org/reps/exec/president/ 

You’ve only just started in your role, but what kind of changes do you hope to make in the coming year?
I plan on running a campaign called ‘Students as Partners’ which looks at involving more students in the decision making process, both within the Union and the university. It is very important to me that students feel they are being fully represented. Due to this, I will be working on projects that target student officer engagement, women’s participation in sport, lobbying the government against changing maintenance grants to loans, and increasing employability opportunities for students. Information on all of these projects can be found here: http://www.qmsu.org/pageassets/reps/exec/Exec-Action-Plan-180915.pdf

What are you most looking forward to about being President?
Continuing with some of the amazing work that the Executive and part time officer teams worked on last year, supporting this year’s Student Council and most importantly, taking on a different role and being able to continue to help improve students’ lives!

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