It’s very easy to fall into the trap of making generalisations – we’ve all done that at some point. But it’s sloppy thinking; often the result of seeing repeated evidence which reinforces a particular view.
Students are lazy, lucky, selfish, broke, wasters, inexperienced and insular. Those are some of the characteristics of today’s typical students if we believe what we read repeatedly in the press. Only rarely are we reminded that students don’t always conform to this stereotype. I recently had the privilege of attending a presentation given by six students from the University of Southampton who gave me a collective poke in the eye when they delivered an inspiring presentation on their SIFE work. Actually it was more of a punch in the face… a real hard-hitting reminder of what students are like, and what they can do. Everyone in the audience was already 100% behind students, and none believed the stereotype to be representative. But everyone in the room was affected in the same way by this inspiring group of young people.
Undergraduates these days face the double challenge of not only completing their studies, but often also earning a part-time wage to offset their living costs, so to see students taking on additional commitments voluntarily is particularly encouraging.
The group from SIFE Southampton won the UK National Championships and the presentation they delivered so professionally was what they will take to the SIFE World Cup in Washington DC in September. Even at their young age, they are making a positive difference to the lives of others around the world – voluntarily. They are absolutely not showing any evidence of being lazy, selfish or any of the other characteristics listed in the second paragraph above. Each of them has massively increased their employability, and prospective employers will be lucky to have them on board.
In a brief chat with Jim Ineson (Exceutive Director of SIFE UK) after the event, I suggested to him that he’s got the best job in the world, and he gladly confirmed that to be the case. These students demonstrated what can be done with enthusiasm, motivation, drive and commitment. They are a credit to the entire student community and a reminder to the rest of us that there is hope.