For many students, university is the first time you’ve spent any length of time away from home.
While the opportunities for new friends, new experiences and new possibilities are exciting, they can be a bit daunting too! It’s totally normal to seek a little comfort in feeling like you belong, whether it’s joining a sports team, student government or, if you’re a South Asian student at the Western University, our Student Group Of The Week.
WICSA, Western’s Indo-Canadian Students’ Association, aims to give South Asian students a “home away from home,” encouraging them to maintain and celebrate their culture while promoting diversity on campus. By putting on events such as the North American Culture Show and Dance Competition, and offering services like academic consulting for students adjusting to their workload, they’ve created a place for Western’s South Asian community to go to for fun, guidance and familiarity.
We heard from Umar Shaikh, President of WICSA, and Sahil Radia, WICSA’s Academics and Philanthropy Executive, about their experiences running the group. Both are fourth-year students, with Umar studying Health Sciences and Sahil studying Business Management and Organizational Studies with a specialization in Finance.
Why did you get involved with WICSA?
Umar: I wanted to take up a leadership role within my university and believed WICSA to be the perfect fit for this. I admired WICSA’s cultural diversity and enjoyed the events they held. Now, as President, I play a vital role in the programming that the team provides for its general members. By helping reduce overall costs for our members, they can participate in all of our events and celebrate their South Asian heritage without an added financial burden.
Sahil: I joined the group last year as a member. I got involved in a few social events over the year and really liked the direction the club was heading in. I then applied for my current position and was interviewed before receiving my post.
How can students decide which groups are right for them?
Umar: Students should evaluate the events the group has run in the past and personally speak to executive members to get a feel of whether the group fits their personality. They should also learn about what the club does within their university and community.
Sahil: For us, the best way is to learn as much as possible is through our ‘clubs week.’ This gives students knowledge of what the club does throughout the year. Also, talking to previous members gives new students a good personal insight into the club.
What has been your most memorable experience with the group so far?
Umar: That would be the annual Culture Show. We all share a similar passion: to unite students living away from home. Through the hard work putting together our Culture Show, WICSA has grown to become a family. I take pride in WICSA’s mandate to encourage Western’s South Asian students to maintain their identity and be proud of what it entails, while working hard in successfully putting together a very talented show.
Sahil: I just joined the group as an executive member, and my most memorable experience so far has been meeting and getting to know everyone. As a general member, my most memorable moment was the Christmas party, where we all had to wear ugly sweaters and part of the ticket went to charity.
What valuable experience and skills have you gained?
Umar: As President of WICSA, I have gained valuable leadership, communication and creative thinking skills. Organizing weekly executive meetings and events has improved my time management skills. Communicating with an executive team of up to 30 members can be a challenge for any student leader. However, alternative methods of communication, such as Asana and Dropbox, have allowed WICSA executive members to provide continuous feedback to one another.
Sahil: Although my role as an executive has just begun, my teamwork and communication skills have increased. I only met part of the executive team before school ended, but had to work with many of them over the summer, so I was essentially working with “strangers” at first in order to meet our deadlines.
Why should UWO students choose to join WICSA?
Umar: We provide a strong foundation for a social network. WICSA also allows Western students to get involved with the community and volunteer. Finally, WICSA helps students with their school work by setting up academic help programs during exam season as well as instilling tutoring classes for further educational purposes.
Sahil: Our club gives students a little bit of comfort with culturally-similar people at the beginning of the school year. After that, it allows students to just get involved on campus and make friends. Since there are many different types of events, it gives students the opportunity to get involved academically or socially.
What advice do you have for your fellow students?
Umar: My best advice is to get involved. Try to balance academics with extra-curricular activities, as this will only benefit you more in enhancing your organization, communication and social skills.
Sahil: The one piece of advice I have is to find your personal balance. Balancing academics, social life and extra-curricular activities will ensure that a student gets to experience the most out of their time at university.
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