September 2011. Twenty timid freshers who have just arrived to Tilburg are sitting under a big oak tree, having lunch. Anne, their mentor, converses with a girl with a naughty smile who looks anything but shy. “So, what would you like to do in your free time? Would you like to join some student organisation?” – “I am not sure about the latter; but I would love to start a debate club for English-speaking students.” The mentor nods and a small doubting question mark reflects in her eyes. She has already heard so many ambitious remarks, yet has never seen any finished project.
Three weeks later, these girls meet again. “How´s your debate club going?” smiles Anne. She is expecting a yielding, hesitant answer along the lines of there not being enough time. However, she could not be more wrong. “Quite well, thanks. So far we have five members and meet weekly in the P-building. Wanna join us?”
Believe it or not, starting a student society is not as difficult as you would expect. I will now provide a formula for mathematicians, normal people can skip the following paragraph.
S = e* (r + t + p) + a + l /where the Success (S) of your undertaking is determined by your enthusiasm and perseverance (e) times your resources (r), time (t) and quality of your plans (p); plus a bit of good advertising (a) and luck (l)/
Firstly, if you want to be a leader of a new student organisation, you really need a thought-through plan of how exactly this would work /surprise, surprise, surprise!/. Who can become a member? How? Is there a fee for members? What kind of activities will you do? Are you going to apply for university funding? …
Secondly, you need to make sure you have the necessary resources for this ambitious project. Can you afford to dedicate your time (and possibly money) to this? Can you design, print and distribute flyers, posters, or approach individuals and talk them into joining? And perhaps even more importantly – can you persuade people not just to come once, but to come regularly? /It´s just like with dates: Getting the second one is more difficult than the first one./
Thirdly, you have to be sure that this is what you want. If you yourself do not care enough, how can you possibly expect others to care about your social group? Even if you are not successful within a month, you should not give up. Rome also wasn´t built in a day. Be enthusiastic, make yourself seen and your cause heard. Be prepared to answer tricky questions and always reply to the point and with a smile.
Lastly, you will need a pot of luck. Easier said than done, eh? Yes and no. It would be great if you secured support of some professors (or even the Dean of your faculty), but it is not necessary. It would help you a lot if you found more enthusiastic people who would help you with this enormous burden – just like it would be awesome if one of your friends had a degree in Advertising strategy, or something. But you can do without!
When you cannot copy posters, draw them! When you cannot persuade your classmates to join, try it in a different class. If you want people to listen to you, hand out cookies (no, seriously – at least they won´t talk during your presentation as they will be too busy eating). The possibilities are endless. /As a debate coach with 2+ year praxis, I should know./
So, dear Reader, there is really just one thing I want you to remember: Go and give it shot. There is no use sitting at home and crying over how lazy others are. Go and talk to people. Persuade. Go and do what you have always wanted to. The world is yours.