Students and alumni are forever telling us how much they love the commutity feel at St Mary's. Knowing everyone by name has always been one of our strengths, so we thought it would be nice for you to get to know students and staff members from across the university a bit more.
In the first edition of our new campaign, #StMarysStories, we speak to the outgoing president of the students' union Conal Baxter.
Conal Baxter, English & History student and President of Students’ Union 2017/18
Why did you choose to come to St Mary’s?
I ended up at St Mary’s almost by accident. After undergoing major surgery in my last year of school, everything went a bit wrong. But I didn’t want to take a year out, so I persisted and applied to places via UCAS points. In September 2014, after meeting the entry requirements for St Mary’s, I got on a plane from Northern Ireland and travelled to Strawberry Hill. Despite having never visited the campus before.
What were your first impressions of the university when you arrived? And are you glad you ended up here?
It was quite a big step for me - moving so far away from home to the mainland with a disability, but I knew it was going to be okay very quickly. When I arrived at my halls, straight away I felt part of the St Mary’s community. Class sizes are small, so I got to know everyone on my course really well in a short space of time. I also got stuck in with the society that suited my interests from home best, Gaelic Football. This is where I met guys from similar areas, with similar backgrounds, to me; and we quickly became friends. They were the ones that persuaded me to go for SU President, believing that I would be able to change things and get stuff done.
And now here I am, about to finish my year as President of the SU. I’m pretty pleased with my decision to come to St Mary’s.
How does it feel knowing you are the first disabled SU officer at St Mary’s?
There aren’t many SU President’s that are disabled, or that come from somewhere far away from their home - definitely not many that are both. I think living with disability means I approach things differently, and have a unique perspective on situations. Throughout this year, I’ve chosen to prioritise student’s wellbeing and I think my own experiences made me better equipped to support our students.
Name your favourite moment, while studying your course English & History.
The first memory that comes to mind is our course trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was great to go to such a historic venue, see a play, and then discuss the production with my course friends and lecturers in a nearby pub afterwards.
What’s your proudest St Mary’s moment?
I’m most proud of my case-work as SU President – which basically involved talking to students and helping them to resolve their academic and pastoral problems. No case was ever the same I always got to see the impact on individual students, how things got better for them and the benefits of my work.
What will you be taking away with you when you leave St Mary’s next month?
As cliché as it sounds, self-confidence. I was really quiet before I came to St Mary’s, I used to worry so much about what people thought of me, and my limping. But university brought me out of my shell, and I don’t really think or care about that sort of stuff anymore. I learnt that as long as you put in the work then people will respect you.
What would your advice be for a student starting in September, that is in a similar position to you were?
Give everything a go. If you don’t try it, you won’t know if you’ll like it. Get involved and join societies, and you’ll find people like you – that you get on with.
What question would you like the next person to answer?
If you could swap into someone’s job at the university, who would it be and why?