Serena Cole is the first black female President of Trinity College Students’ Union (TCSU). In this Q&A the second-year Medical student reflects on what she has gained from getting involved in student politics and outreach work, and how her experience could inspire others.
What is the one thing that has enabled you to succeed in your extra-curricular activities?
The key to my previous role as BME Officer and now TCSU President is my drive and motivation. I am passionate about the changes I want to make and without this passion I think that the pandemic would have halted any progress. Instead I have been able to do more than I could have imagined since the pandemic, including organising Trinity’s first Black History Month and piloting the TrackToTrin access scheme for Year 12 Black students.
A close second would be setting targets and writing these goals down so that I could look back and check on my progress. It is very hard to aim high if you don’t know what you are aiming for!
What would you tell your younger self?
I would want to tell myself – and others – to always make time to do what you are passionate about. The more extra curriculars I take on, the more time I find that I have in the day. This is counter-intuitive but I find that it works for things that I enjoy or care about. It also applies to relaxation and spending time with friends and family, which is incredibly important for maintaining my mental health and self-care.
Secondly, there are a wealth of opportunities out there but sometimes you have to reach or even search for them. This might require an uncomfortable step – even opening yourself up to failure, perhaps – but I wish that I had taken more chances. I haven’t regretted doing things that took me outside my comfort zone, including, for example, applying to Trinity and running for TCSU office.
What’s the most important thing that younger women could learn from your success?
I hope that younger women will see me in the TCSU role and know that no space is inaccessible to them. As a young, black woman, I was able to flourish in none other than Trinity College, Cambridge; a person’s race, gender or age should not be a barrier to achievement. I was lucky enough to have the support and encouragement of others and I hope I can be a source of inspiration for the next generation of young women.
Have your achievements changed what you will do next?
Being elected President of TCSU and all of the wonderful messages of support that I have received has really boosted my confidence. I hope to take this confidence and the skills that I will learn on the job into my career. I know that if I can succeed and lead at this level, I will be able to replicate that in the world of medicine.