During my trip to Washington DC, where I’ll do my final internship, I think about those 3 years I’ve been at TELECOM Nancy. I’m convinced this engineering school was perfectly adapted to what I wanted to become and I’m really proud of this choice I made quite a long time ago while I was in High School. In addition to having learned a lot of theoretical mathematics and programming stuffs that will certainly help me a lot in my future work life, I think our student life was as important as our school program. It makes more sense when you think about the fact that you can easily learn how to code online even by yourself, but acting as a responsible adult is a thing that you learn by living experiences. And because of my admiration for this school, I’ve always wanted to bring my contribution to it and entertain its spirit.
You may have read, in one of my previous post, how I led the orientation team to offer an amazing experience to first year students. After that, I had the opportunity to led our student association a.k.a. the CETEN (for Cercle des Elèves de TELECOM Nancy). By reading this post, you’ll know more about what the student life in french engineering school looks like. In a more personal point of view, you’ll also know how did I get involved as a president during the year 2016 and what it taught me.
In France, engineering & business schools offer a wide student life inside their buildings.
In fact, the Engineering Accreditation Institution asks to engineering schools to entertain this student life by offering rooms, materials and subsidies to student associations. Indeed, it’s a true experience for someone to get involved in the student life at school. We’ll see why later. So thanks to that, TELECOM Nancy currently has 5 main associations ran by the students:
Almost every student takes part in the student life of the school. In fact, it’s even a requirement to be graduated.
The main association of TELECOM Nancy is the CETEN. In 2016, 315 students out of 400 joined it wich is more than 75%. A wide range of club exists (25 to be exact). Everyone can decide to join one or several clubs, take part to their activities and find his happiness. To be created, a club need at least 3 people to manage it: a president, a treasurer and a secretary. There is a club in charge of our Prom’ night, the cafeteria, organizing trips, organizing events throughout the year and so on.
All of those clubs are managed by the head of the CETEN: a team of 10 people elected for a year, the Bureau des élèves a.k.a. BDE. In our school, this team is used to organize public meetings each week to support club’s actions and to discuss about projects together. It has a noteworthy budget of ~130k€/year. This money comes from all the members of the union, from partnerships, subsidies and is distributed to each clubs. Up to now, you can imagine that this has a significant scale for a non-profit organization.
As you may have understood, TELECOM Nancy was the school of my dreams for years. After leading the orientation team, I had naturally the opportunity to stand for the election of the BDE but it wasn’t that simple. One thinks twice before getting involved for a year with great responsibilities in addition to his classes. So at the beginning I doubted a lot to do it and only one thing made me change my mind : friends telling me that I was the right person to do this job. Not everyone had this thought of course, I’m talking about 3 or 4 people, but it was just enough to bring me the little courage I needed. I will be forever thankful to them because I think this experience brought me a lot. At this point, it was very stressful and impressive but the hardest thing was to do the first step!
Let’s come to what I’ve learned by doing this, which I consider to be more interesting than what we actually did (But I’ll be happy to talk with everybody who wants more details about that!). The first thing that comes to my mind is that leading a 10 people team is NOT easy, even if it was a fully selected team. It took me 2 to 3 months to know how to act as a leader and to build confidence between us. An other thing that was not easy for me was interference. I always wanted to do all the work by myself being convinced that I’ll do it better than anyone else. It quickly exhausted me and after a few weeks I naturally learned how to delegate part of my work to the right person. With this come an other thing: follow-up work. With a bit of help this time, from my mentors (previous leaders of the student union ;)) I learned how to give work (easy part) and how to make sure that this work will be done (hardest part) with some easy tricks like setting up deadlines, fixing goals, making people concerned about what they were doing… This is mainly organization, with a bit of human relationship understandings.
After a few months, our team was not perfect at all, but powerful and we were able to lead big projects for the school and I’m very proud of what we’ve done together. It wasn’t always easy, but I learned to communicate, to listen to others, I also understood the importance of advice that people who had been there could give. None of the less, I learned to admit my mistakes. You should see, by now, why I consider implication in student life as important as our studies.
I’ll end this post by saying that if you, reader, ever thought of not doing some things because it was too hard or too risky, you should still do it ! You HAVE TO ! Nobody has ever been successful by fixing him limits. Believe in yourself and doors will start to open in front of you ;)