Niall Magennis is the Student Union President at Birmingham City University. He moved to Birmingham from Ireland in 2010 to study BA (Hons) Media and Communication.

When I first arrived at the Coppice in City North Campus, ‘Oh my goodness, say something else!!!’ seemed to be the theme of my Welcome Week. I thought everyone around me had never heard an Irish accent before, and some seemed to think that leprechauns were a real thing.

After having this conversation with around 40 different students, the effect seemed to wear off and I was just another student starting their BCU journey. My first thought was, ‘what if everyone in my halls realises how uncool I really am!’ but after taking my friend’s advice, I left my door open, played some music out and unpacked. Slowly but surely, people started to wander into my flat and introduce themselves, some even more timid than me, and I slowly realised we were all in the same boat.

Leaving my door open seemed to be a common theme for how I had such a fantastic first year experience – open yourself up to new experiences and jump in! You have an amazing opportunity to test, build and develop yourself academically, with the option of trying hundreds of different sports and societies, whether its Extreme Sports, the Mooting Society or even the Dr Who Appreciation Society, meeting people from across the world and building friends for life.

Coming from a small Irish village, of course I was scared of moving to England, especially a city the size of Birmingham, but you need to make the city your own! The worst thing you can do is sit in your accommodation and not take the opportunity to see what the city has to offer you. Every single person moving to another place that isn’t their home is scared, but people have different ways of showing their fear. Remember that a problem shared is a problem halved, so get to know your personal tutors, join societies and sports teams, get to know the support staff in your Students’ Union and Student Services, and you will build a whole network of support; a sort of team, that will be able to pick you up when you get those worrying feelings.

In my second year, I got involved in the Students’ Union through joining the Students’ Union Radio Station, Scratch Radio, presenting ‘The Jones and Magennis Show’ every Tuesday from 3 til 5pm, developing my confidence in broadcasting outside of my course, and convincing everyone back home that I was a big time celebrity on air – well that’s certainly what it felt like! I then got a job in the Union bar and café, learning more about the organisation and volunteering for  ‘Welcome team’, introducing new students to the University.

I learnt about the Union and what it does for students, which gave me the confidence and belief to run in the Leadership Elections, and was elected as Vice President of Student Experience, and then re-elected in 2014 as the Students’ Union President, representing over 22,000 students.

So my advice for arriving in Birmingham for the first time as a BCU student… make the city your own and take every opportunity that comes your way! Don’t wait until your final year to engage with the Union or University, but build your team and your team will build you up!

Living in Birmingham offers you the chance to live in an exciting, diverse city with world-class restaurants, entertainment and shops. Find out why it was named as one of the world’s top 10 cities in 2015.

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