Student governor shares his college experience

Chris Wahlen, from Goring-on-Thames, is a current student at The Henley College, who joined us from Langtree School in Woodcote.

"I joined The Henley College in 2020 to study Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics and German all at A Level. I’ve gotten along fantastically throughout the two years, where I’ve been able to indulge my interests in all of those subject areas.

I found it a little daunting to have such a step up from Langtree, my secondary school. For starters, the two campuses made it feel much more like a university and the free form lesson structure where you only come in for what you need gave me much more independence. Although at the start it was different, it only took me a couple weeks to have completely forgotten what I knew before and accept this as the way it should work.

The freedom offered to me around how schooling worked was definitely a driving factor for why I chose the Henley College. Although the level of education would probably have been about as good in a 6th form as it is at Henley, being in control of how you learn let me feel as though I’m more prepared to face adult life – which for some may not feel as though it’s that important a factor – but believe me, you don’t realise how quick you just get thrown out into the ”real” world after college. Having that experience beforehand is crucial to being able to manage your own life.

I think my best memory was going to my first governors meeting. What to many of the governors I’m sure was just a casual event really opened my eyes to how things get done behind the scenes. Not trying to sound like an absolute neek, but if you do get the opportunity to go for student governor you should.

I am on track to be studying Computer Science and AI at Bath University next year, which is indeed what I have wanted to do for about 5 years now – and all the support I’ve received at Henley when applying for university – especially from Joanna Atkinson, the Oxbridge and UCAS co-ordinator, has absolutely been crucial for me being able to be where I am now.

My main reason for wanting to take computer science was obviously the money. Joking aside, throughout my life I’ve really enjoyed puzzles and logic-based activities, which is why CS and the more STEM-Based subjects really called to me. My original interest in computing started all the way back in year 4 at primary, where we used Scratch to make small games on the internet. As it was one of the few things early on that I found came naturally, I developed an increasing interest in the subject over my years studying it.

Once I’ve finished my university course, I’m hoping to get into the computer science sector anywhere really, so long as it’s not IT support. But aside from just my career, I really want to remain active in life and not end up cruising along for the next 40 or so years. Having been a student governor at THC, it’s really allowed me to develop my interest in public speaking and organising affairs. I’m hoping to never stop putting myself out there, because although it sounds horrendously cliché, you really do have to try everything once. Otherwise, or at least in my experience, everything seems to blend into itself, and you find yourself feeling monotonous. All of that, and also to get rich!

Being a student governor really allowed me to start understanding how things that seem to be miles above your head actually run. I think the main experience that I’ve gotten from that is that no matter how scary some people may seem at first, they all are just people like you and me. There’s nothing to say that you’re not scary to others either, and that the more you interact with people the easier it gets to understand them. Having to organise things as well, such as getting the SU back up and running has really tested my ability to juggle things around – a skill that is imperative to being able to function on your own.

Do things and don’t let yourself get lazy. Of all the people I know, the ones who get up on time most mornings end up being the ones who are the happiest in their day to day lives. On top of that, keep doing things that keep you happy. There’s no point in focusing all of your life now on school and education if the only reason you’re doing it is to have a better future. Not to say that you shouldn’t focus on schoolwork at all, but live in the now. Stop worrying about what life might be in the next 5 years and start enjoying how it is now. Once you get to 5 years in the future, you’ll nostalgically be wishing life was as it is now. Enjoy it whilst it lasts, you do only live once.

Finally, I would just like to add that you should choose good music to soundtrack your life. If you’re stuck, listen to the album ‘Is This It?’ by the Strokes – it’s great front to back!"


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