Developing leadership skills as a grad student: My experience as a Community Assistant

The Community Centre at Columbia Lake Village (CLV) where Betsy works as a Community Assistant.

The Community Centre at Columbia Lake Village (CLV) where Betsy works as a Community Assistant.

I started my master’s program in September 2018 and have been living in Columbia Lake Village (CLV) since then. When I saw the posting for the CLV Community Assistant position for the winter semester, I was more than happy to apply. I’ve always wanted to develop my leadership skills and thought that this was the perfect opportunity.

My experience as a Community Assistant started with training sessions for 2 days, which provided us an overview of the different situations we have to deal with. These training sessions gave me confidence and prepared me for the role. There are a variety of situations that I have to deal with which can be challenging at times. However, this is also a great experience as I learn something new almost every day. Moreover, it gives me a sense of personal satisfaction to know that I have made a difference in the lives of students in the community.

My experience as a Community Assistant has been truly rewarding in many ways. CLV is a really diverse community with people from different parts of the world. Becoming a Community Assistant has helped me connect with a lot of people, understand different cultures and make new friends.  Being an international student, I am aware of the difficulties that students face staying away from home. It really feels great to be in a position where I can help in facilitating the transition of CLV from that of a residence to a home.

In addition to developing new skills, I’ve also had a lot of fun in this role. I get to work with an amazing team. We support each other and put our ideas together to plan events and programs. This has helped in developing teamwork skills which I think is an important skill for grad students as we often work in groups for projects and seminars. One of the biggest challenges I faced prior to this role was difficulty in conveying my ideas in a group and I believe that my role as a Community Assistant has greatly helped me in overcoming this challenge.

Betsy Mathew, second from left, with the Community Assistant team at the CLV Ping Pong/Foosball/Pool tournament. (Photo credit: Ekin Eray)

Betsy Mathew, second from left, with the Community Assistant team at the CLV Ping Pong/Foosball/Pool tournament. (Photo credit: Ekin Eray)

Once we enter grad school, I have found that we often find ourselves stuck in the ‘busy trap’. We tend to restrict our lives only to academics, which can be stressful over a long period of time. I strongly encourage all graduate students to look beyond academics and explore the different opportunities available to you, including positions on campus. This will help in developing professional skills that can be beneficial in your journey after grad school as well. Getting out of your comfort zone can sound scary, but trust me- it is worth the effort!

Betsy Mathew is a MES student in Sustainability Management, researching the applications of blockchain technology in sustainability.

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