Passionate, dynamic and working tirelessly 24/7 to take the Student Life at Milestone to the next level. At the Institute you will find her chatting to students, providing assistance for setting up and running student organisations and coordinating all Student Life events. Read our interview with Eszter Jókay, Milestone’s one and only Student Life Coordinator and get yourself geared up for the Student Life Week at Milestone, which begins on Tuesday, May 22.
You completed your 4-year Master of Arts degree at the University of Glasgow studying English Literature and Theatre Studies, but now you work and live in Budapest. Why have you decided to come back instead of staying in the UK?
For me studying abroad was never out of contempt or as a means of escape, I left Hungary to pursue a long-term dream of mine which was to immerse myself into Academia and student life at one of the oldest British universities. I always had the intention to return to Hungary one day, so when the opportunity presented itself to work at the Milestone Institute I felt no hesitation. As the Institute contributed to my own journey towards Higher Education, I have been following the way in which it has grown in numbers and progressed into an outstanding educational institution, promoting academic excellence and pioneering the promotion of international studies. The opportunity to work with such talented students and contribute to their future in some way was one of the main motivations behind my move and it has been an ever-changing and exciting learning curve.
Your role as Student Life Coordinator naturally implies that you have gained a lot from being involved within Student Life activities. What was your involvement within societies at Glasgow University? Do you have any highlights you would like to share?
Studying at the University of Glasgow enabled me to take on demanding executive roles such as being Community Officer and General Secretary for the Student Theatre in Glasgow. Besides being in a position of leadership for a society which produced 22 shows a year, I also had the opportunity to contribute creatively as a Director, Stage Manager and Production Manager. Participating in processes of students forming into a close-knit community through teamwork and mutual passion and seeing all our hard-work come alive on stage were undoubtedly amongst my most rewarding experiences at University. Other highlights include being part of the organising team for two Tedx Conferences with more than 200 attendees and a host of inspirational speakers from a variety of professions. I also joined the Cheerleading Club for a year, just for fun.
Your current position at Milestone does not seem immediately close to what you have studied in Glasgow. How can you profit from your time at University in your current role as Milestone’s Student Life Coordinator?
British universities have a great tradition of encouraging students to become active participants within student life events as the real-life value and potential for skill-development in student-led organisations are recognised and valued. While I have always sought opportunities to expand my knowledge about pedagogy and education which included taking on modules which reflected on how drama and reading can contribute to active, reflexive, critical and self-conscious learning, I can say with certainty that much of my hands-on experience comes from having been in student leadership positions. These posts of responsibility enhanced my time-management skills, my ability to handle stressful situations, to multitask, to work towards creative solutions and achieve effective interpersonal communication. All of these qualities are indispensable in any form of employment but especially in such a demanding and varied post as the Student Life Coordinator. My understanding of processes and communications within Society Board Meetings, the experience of liaising with individual students and leading large groups of students as well as organising events and devising yearly schedules is being utilised on a daily basis. Furthermore, not only does my experience with student societies enable me to succeed in my current position but it has smoothed the often difficult progression from University to employment, as these point of references have allowed me to complete internships at companies such as BBC Scotland and Education First.
What is your vision for Student Life at Milestone this Academic Year?
As the Institute pursues its mission to create a community of aspiring leaders, I strongly believe that the heartbeat of this goal is to create a thriving ‘Student Life’ community. Student-led organisations and events are the cradle of connections and synergies which will outlast Secondary School and even University. Thus, nurturing these organisations forms an important element of the Institute’s mission. One of my aims as Student Life Coordinator is to make all our Societies and Clubs as open and welcoming as possible. As someone who only got involved in extracurricular activities such as Debating and MUN in my last two years of Secondary School, in retrospect, joining at a younger age would have had major benefits. Thus, this year, I aim to encourage Freshman and Sophomore students to take on roles of leadership and also to devise a recruitment plan for the New Academic Year which will ensure easy access for new students. Besides the Year Opening Ceremony on Saturday, 5th May, both new and continuing students will have the chance to get to know all Student Organisations through a week of events organised by Society and Club student leaders from 22nd-27th May.
What other elements are there in your Student Life reconstruction plan?
I see Student Life as a bridge between academic study, skill-development and community-building. Thus, I chose to create clear categories within the Student Organisations. ‘Societies’ are all now assigned to one of the four Academic Divisions of Arts, Literature and Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences or Numerical Sciences to ensure the support of the Academic Team. Their goals revolve around academic studies and personal development. Examples of these include the Debating Society and Innovation Society. Clubs, on the other hand, generally have either a strong connection to the Milestone Alumni network, Sports or have a social focus, examples include the Finance and Rowing Club. Another element of Student Life which is sometimes overshadowed by academic pressures is creating a safe space for students to get to know each other and to share their experiences.Hence, in the New Academic Year, I shall establish a Milestone Student Council which will be put together by Student Officers from each Year Group to provide a link between the student body and Milestone staff. The Welfare and Social Officers will gather feedback from their peers, suggest improvements to the Academic Team and organise socials for their Year Group. Furthermore, I shall be providing extra support for our Student Presidential Boards through regular meetings and leadership training to ensure the smooth running of their organisations as well as cultivating a strong team of leaders.
Keep an eye on our freshly released Facebook page, ‘Milestone Institute Student Life’, which is solely dedicated to Student Organisations at Milestone. From their upcoming events, reviews of competitions to throwback pictures and funny videos, it is the place to go to if one wishes to keep on track with what is happening in Student Life.
After the Year Opening, how do you see the next Academic Year and the Summer Term?
From sailing weekends to debating competitions and MUN conferences, there is an eventful Summer ahead for Milestone students. Following the success of the Student Life Fair at the Year Opening, we just released the Student Life Week programme. This week of events takes place during Shopping Week which precedes our teaching term. Students are encouraged to not only ‘shop’ for their academic modules but also get a taste of what our Clubs and Societies have on offer and sign-up for membership. Our 10 Student Organisations ensure that there is something for everyone! These events include a Kahoot Quiz about scientific misconceptions, an open business session, training and picnic with the rowing club, a talk by a UN Youth Delegate, a show debate as well as a movie night in the backyard if the weather holds. The week ends with the Open Day at Balatonfüred with the Sailing Club which I am particularly excited about!