When I first started at the University of Essex back in 2009, I had no idea what to expect. I’d just had a gap year working to save up for my fees and had previously just been involved with my local association.
Boy, was it a roller coaster of a ride. Take it from me, no matter what you choose to do in politics in the future, your time at University will give you plenty of err..experience.
Aside from not spending your student loan in the first month and stocking up early on pasta and rice, here’s my advice for you as you set out on your journey.
Mo’s advice to CFers:
1) Sign up to your campus branch: It’s a great place to meet likeminded people and it also provides you with your very own ‘safe space’ (a concept used excessively by the left). Aside from making friends outside of politics (which is a must), campus CF brings with it unique events, a team of loyal comrades and opportunities to campaign.
2) Get elected to the SU: Imagine 50 Jeremy Corbyn’s. That’s pretty much what a SU council looks and sounds like. Aside from that, you owe it to the majority of students on campus who stay away from politics and want the best from their time at Uni, to speak up for them. Whilst you’ll find that putting forward ideas as uncontroversial as condemning strike action from lecturers is met with cries of ‘fascist’, it’s a great place to practice your debating skills.
3) Join your new local association: Whether you’re at Essex, Brighton, Warwick or Leicester, it’s going to be your home for the next three or more years. If you’re feeling adventurous, join up to your new local association (you can be members of more than one). Local – non student- members will give you a good understanding of your new community and an escape from academia. I was fortunate enough, along with many other CF members, to run for local council, help with big action days, and on the odd occasion- get a free hot meal from one the local councillors.
4) Take the time to learn about the opposition (for those studying any politics based modules): One of the best things I got out of studying politics, was the time I had to learn about my opposition. It’s really easy to write a paper on Conservatism and to convince yourself as to why our ideology is the best, but the marker can quickly spot a Tory. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll mark you down, but they’ll know you haven’t thought ‘outside the box’ and explored new concepts and ideas. Use the time you have to understand why socialism belongs in books and not in government and to grasp why it is the opposition are, well, wrong!
5) Don’t be afraid to speak out: There will be times when you hear all sorts of nonsense spewed about Conservatives and other important issues. Don’t sit there and take it. Stand up to it! Be it in class, in the campus squares or in SU general meetings, don’t be intimated into silence. Compose yourself, formulate your argument and hit back. Yes, you may be booed or hissed at, but leave the situation knowing what you did what was right.
But most importantly, have the time of your life! University isn’t for everyone but for those that go, most will agree it’s one of the best experiences known to mankind.
CWF would also like to wish those heading off to University the very best of luck!
Mo Metcalf-Fisher is the Contributing Editor of Conservative Way Forward. He was also the Campus Chairman of Essex Uni Conservatives from 2010- 2013.
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