Tag Archives: Student Story

UC Sustainability Champion: Meet Varvara

Varvara Sidorenko – Community Gardener, Op Shop Enthusiast, President of UC DigSoc and Eco Volunteer

Varvara Poster

This year, we’re proud to be profiling students and staff who we believe are contributing to the culture of sustainability at UC. We are running this campaign in the lead up to the 2019 UC Sustainability Awards, so get thinking about who you’ll be nominating this year! Nominations for the Awards are open from the 5 – 31 August.

In the meantime, read on and enjoy our first Sustainability Champion profile from the wonderful Varvara – our passionate Community Gardener, Op Shop enthusiast, Eco Volunteer and President of UC DigSoc (among many other great things!).

DigSoc Spring equinox party
Varvara at DigSoc’s 2018 Spring Equinox Pizza Party in Waiutuutu Community Garden


Tell us about yourself.
This year I am finishing off my BA in Political Science and Economics. I speak passable German and fluent Russian. I love art, Lord of the Rings, and really awful indie films. I am really passionate about community engagement, and the power of local initiatives to make the world more sustainable.

Tell us how you became involved with sustainability at UC.
To be honest I don’t quite remember. I think it was mostly me showing up to workshops, events and the campus community gardens. I got to know quite a few people in the sustainability network, and essentially hung out at various things. I never thought of myself as the volunteering kind of person, but I think that if you find a cause you care about you’ll be surprised by how much time you can and want to give.

What has been a sustainability project that has meant a lot to you?I think seeing the Dovedale Community garden grow over the past two years from a relatively unused space to a thriving community garden. Though I had little to do with the transformation, it has still been incredible to see how much some willpower and commitment can do. Two of the longstanding community gardeners, Jane and Michael, have put so much time, love and effort into Dovedale. They have made it a really inspiring place to be and have been amazing positive role models for all of us who come along.

What is something that has made you feel really proud and a part of UC?
Meeting some of the staff who are doing amazing things for sustainability behind the scenes. Many of them do relatively thankless jobs to keep the campus running and to make it a nice place to be, and seeing their positivity and enthusiasm is really, really touching.

Where to next for you?
My next mission is to start up and/or participate in sustainability projects at my work. I think in the future, businesses will be held to much higher ethical and environmental standards, and I hope to help the company I work for to prepare for these new challenges.

This message was bought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Stay connected and follow us on Facebook, Instagram or sign up to our newsletter to stay in the loop about campus sustainability. This blog is part of our Sustainability Champions Campaign, where we profile UC students and staff doing great things for sustainability. This is part of our wider communications plan for the 2019 UC Sustainability Awards. For more information, and for the Awards nomination form, see our website.

Meet Bejen Patel…

Bejen Patel, BCom

  • Strong communicator
  • Innovative thinker

Bejen is a third year commerce student who’s been making the most of uni life and getting involved in extra activities. The experience and skills he’s gained through these activities will be captured on his Co-curricular Record (CCR). Here’s his story…

Back in 2016, my first year at UC, I signed up to be a Class Rep. At the same time I was asked if I wanted to sign up for CCR. As I found out more about CCR I thought it seemed like a good way to show the additional things I’ve done and skills I’ve learned while studying. And I was signing up to be a Class Rep anyway so I thought I might as well get recognition for it.

The Class Rep role can vary depending on the class. Basically if students have any problems or issues, or feedback for the lecturer – for example they can’t follow what the lecturer is saying or there’s something the lecturer has missed out – then they can come and talk to me. I can raise their concerns with the lecturer and then go back to the students on the outcome. Usually if one student is saying something’s happening, there’ll be a whole lot of other students thinking exactly the same thing.

The role, which I also did in second and third year, has definitely helped me to build strong communication skills and adapt my communication style when needed. When I’m talking to other students in my class I try to be more approachable and friendly, whereas when I’m approaching lecturers and heads of departments with feedback I’ve got to be more professional. I’ve got to know the lecturers quite well through the process and have formed good connections with them.

Just being able to talk to different people from different backgrounds, I’ve probably become more confident as a person. I definitely didn’t used to be as open with other people, but now I can easily go up and talk to someone.

I’ve also been involved with the Entre $85k Start-Up Challenge, which has taught me a lot about innovation, thinking outside of the box and being more adaptable and flexible. A few of us had an idea from a course we did last year to develop an app for students called ‘Study With Me’. We put that forward and have recently made it into the top 10 ventures.

We’ve talked to lots of business people and mentors, and have made connections and learned to network. The mentoring sessions have been really useful for building knowledge and skills that are really hard to get otherwise. You learn about how to take an idea and start your own business, market validation and things like that. It’s something you don’t learn in the classroom – it’s sort of like getting the real world experience before you get to the real world. 

There’s so many opportunities that you can take up UC. Doing extra activities – like being a Class Rep, doing the Entre $85k Start-Up Challenge, or being involved in a club – they all teach you skills you can use long-term. The CCR recognises your involvement in these activities and everything you’ve done is summed up and recorded in one place, which is quite useful when it comes to applying for a job. 

Interested in CCR?
Find out more at www.canterbury.ac.nz/ccr  
Visit UC Careers at Level 1, Geography building (next to Café 101)

Above: Bejen has been a Class Rep and participated in the Entre $85k Start-Up Challenge while studying commerce at UC.