My Chilean Adventure: Touch Down Day One

So if you’ve previously read my ‘Chilean Adventure’ blog posts you’ll be up to speed with the goings on of my latest travel exploits, if you haven’t I suggest you go read them, I won’t be recapping, far too much more to divulge.

Sunday proved a delightful first full day in Chile, we went for a walk along the beach and dipped our toes in the Pacific, had cocktails and watched another sunset. This was the first moment we all came together as a group, three members of the trip flew out on the Saturday so we were joined by them in the evening. The beach has proven a popular spot where we can all talk and relax, get to know one another, and practice our Spanish.

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The Pacific

Another bonding technique of ours was to go for happy hour cocktails; and boy do they free pour in Chile. Back home a single is 25ml, here I reckon it’s half the glass! After a daiquiri and mojito we were all very merry.

Heading back lack to our host family, Yana and I settled in nicely to a family meal of tachos (they were more like fajitas) the food was lovely and soon some Chilean wine was flowing and we tried the local aperitif, Pisco. Again the spirit filled half the glass and after one I said Buenos Noches and headed off to bed.

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Viña del mar

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Viña del Mar

Monday morning, early Monday morning, brought University. Our host accompanied us on the petrifying bus journey to Valparaiso; the buses here don’t adhere to normal bus rules, they’re super small and speed, nor corners, matter.

Looking up at the university though I realised, I’m basically going to school in Hogwarts. The architecture is spectacular. The building s were built in 1933 but at a glance you would assume they’ve stood astride the hill for centuries.

After taking a walking tour of the grounds we finally made our way towards classes. The rooms were freezing, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the walls built for hot summer weather. As we all bundled up, scarves now being used as blankets and jumpers being wrapped warmer we began with our culture teacher; Felipe.

Now as he strode about the class, waving his pen as though it were a sword added to the fact he has a goatee and a fringe that does the whole Loreal flick he was quickly labelled the fifth musketeer. Soon though the faces of the class changed from smiles to confusion, frowns growing, and the what’s app group exploding with various quips about the tangents our musketeer was going off on.

While the class ended with confusion, we were met with sun and the sea as we walked out of the campus towards the buses. While day one of Spanish may have been confusing, Valpariaso proved to be a beautiful city. Our host took us up a funicular where we could see across the port town towards Viña del Mar. The frigid air only added to the tranquility of the evening and I could have stood on the hillside gazebo for hours watching the city move and breath.

Valpariaso by night

Valpariaso by night

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Students Union President Interview

The new President has arrived….No not that one! Harry Hodges has recently been named as the new Student’s Union President after months of campaigning and subsequent elections. Sat now, opposite me, he is cool and collected; comfortably positioned in his chair and a far different Harry to the one that had to deal with elections only a month ago.

Starting from the beginning I decided that we needed to get to know Harry before he talks us through his Presidential ambitions. Harry hails from Devon, in the South of England, and came to Greenwich University to study Psychology, always having been a member of the Student’s Union he decided, in his final year, to actually become a volunteer officer and this is where the interview begins.

When asking Harry why he chose to join the Student’s Union as an officer a couple of years ago, he explained his love for working to help the students. His role then was Equality, Diversity and Disability Officer (President is a breath of fresh air compared to that lengthy title). Harry believed this role “opened his eyes to the students union and really showed him what little was being done”. Even now he sits up straight and speaks with heightened emotion.

“We constantly challenged the sabbatical officers when myself and Ed Oakes were Equality officers; we pushed them to do more. At the end of the year we felt we’d be some of the best people to lead the Union.”

Harry has had a large involvement with activities and societies before his role as Vice President of Student Activities, and soon to be President. As a student he was a member of Greenwich’s Hockey and Cricket Teams as well as being a member of the Psychology Society. Having such a firm standing within the student body Harry had a clear idea of what he wanted to do and achieve within the Students Union.

When asked about his role as Vice President of Student Activities and what he’s achieved this past year a smile crossed Harry’s face as he leaned forward and excitedly told me the numbers.

“We wanted to at least have a thousand new members join societies this year, and we’ve had two thousand and fifty! Sports are constantly growing as well!” A number to be proud of, surpassing targets set at the beginning of the year, not only this but the number of societies available to students has also doubled.

After talking to him about background work we discussed what he wants to do as President, his role commencing June 1st.

Quoting his manifesto from the election process he spoke passionately about “Greenwich apathy”. Harry firmly believes that there is a lack of feeling when it comes to students and the SU and even the University.

“I want to ensure that I bridge the gap between the University and Students. A lot of the staff for the University, especially those in high positions, have no time for the students and really don’t understand them.” Shaking his head Harry rolls his eyes at the idea of this unseeing higher board of educators.

The role of President can become heavily administrative; you sit on a lot of boards and talk to a lot of staff. I want to achieve communication between all three parties; the Students Union, University Staff, and Students. I have the ability to and I want to make sure I use it.”

The elections process is a long and arduous task that takes months of preparation and a lot of decisions have had to be made. Harry was part of “Team Red”, a group of students who all had the same objectives and motives that allowed them to group together and run as a kind of political party. (All members of Team Red were elected in the campaign).

Having run in multiple elections now Harry spoke of how this was an “interesting year” as there were no “large groups or slates running against us, it was mainly independents”. When asked how this made him feel and if he found this to be an easier election campaign than previous years he quickly responded with “No, it was still difficult and hard work. This was the first year of really positive campaigning and there were a strong group of candidates who all had the best intentions.” Asked if running as a group made a difference he replied, “When people run as a group though they bring with them a large group of people with various backings, however, independents don’t have this they tend to only have a few or themselves. This doesn’t mean the campaign was easy though, anyone could’ve won.” If he had lost Harry fondly maintains the knowledge that “the other candidates would’ve done a really good job too.”

When asked what the first thing he thought of when winning he replied “Thank God!”.

Speaking of his future Harry simply laughs, a lot! “I don’t know, I think I would like to enter the volunteering sector, specialise in crisis. But all I know is I need to take a break from the higher education sector.”

When the interview was over Harry smiled and asked if he could relax, laughing I told him he’d been relaxed throughout. Clearly he’s going to be good SU president.