Interview with Our 2020 Year Rep Candidates

“On the eve of election and results day, succeeding (our marvelous) Zhenhao Li is not an easy thing in a time which fragments discourses, limits exchanges, and restrains meetings. Yet, our dedicated and motivated candidates all stretched their imaginations and adaptability to let each student consider their core values and plans.”
By Lea Gambier, Ugo Fava & Louis Takei De Sola

Amidst digital but united times, the year rep campaign of 2020 has been unfolding for one week now, during which you were able to enjoy the glittering posters, catchy videos, caring calls, and innovative plans of our dear candidates. Not only acting as a bridge between the administration and student concerns, the Year Rep is a decisive cornerstone for our cohort. This year especially emphasized the need for diversity, caring, consideration, accessibility and assertiveness.

On the eve of election and results day, succeeding (our marvelous) Zhenhao Li is not an easy thing in a time which fragments discourses, limits exchanges, and restrains meetings. Yet, our dedicated and motivated candidates all stretched their imaginations and adaptability to let each student consider their core values and plans.

We have interviewed our four candidates for you before the tolling bell of (remotely) casted ballots: Gaby Ho, Janhvi Chandra Govil, Jingwen Ren, and Melissa Sum Wah,

1- Tell us a bit about yourself. Give us a glimpse of who you are.

Gaby: I’m Gaby. I was born in the US and grew up there, but then I moved to Vietnam and Singapore where I graduated from high school and spent a couple years in South-East Asia. My parents are third-culture kids so they are not from the same place that their parents are. When people ask “where are you from?”, I just can’t really pin on one place. I do like cooking a lot, knowing that there is always too much for myself so overall I do like cooking for other people, plus I like reading a lot and making music (guitar and singing).

Janhvi: Hey! My name is Janhvi, I come from India. I’ve been used to living in a community. I’m a national basketball player and I’m a professional dancer as well. I recently got a diploma so as to teach my passion. I also was a debate society captain back in India. Public speaking is something I get very passionate about (I’m a pet lover as well). I speak Hindi and English fluently, love to listen to old music and party.

Jingwen: I’m from the wintry and Russian-feeling city of Harbin in China. I love traveling and meeting people from varying mindsets and nationalities, during which I’ve learnt four foreign languages and I’m still working on French now. I’m the type of person that people around me tend to turn to when they are down or in need. I think that’s because I’m an empathetic listener and always give advice that they would like to rely on.

Melissa: I am from Canada and spent my childhood in various countries such as China, Indonesia, and Canada. My passion is Model United Nations in extracurricular activities. I’m particularly passionate about international issues, human issues and feminism because of the environment I’ve lived in.

2- This year’s campaign has been a particularly peculiar one for various reasons, however while facing those distance and material challenges, you have all decided to take the opposing view of solo lockdown by letting voluntary student teams help for running the campaign as a key component of the race. What led you to decide so? Which objectives were to be reached by such unprecedented initiative?

Gaby: The team work helped me a lot and offered brightly new perspectives on my work, ideas… People inspired me a lot for creating new things and building a solid teamwork where everybody helped with their very own talents and perspectives. Having this team was then a meaningful experience and completely related to my vision of being a year representative and being accessible and open to every topic and person.

Janhvi: I would first say that I was an international student, and me, being the student representative at Sciences Po would symbolize how international Sciences Po is. I clearly understand the difficulty with covid, getting used to a new country, how people struggle to settle in. I generally like helping people, and as a student year representative I would be at the best of my ability so as to help everyone in this peculiar time.

Jingwen: Well, that’s an interesting question for me because I suppose I’m the only candidate distantly running for Year Rep in this campaign! But still, I’ve received many pieces of brilliant advice from students in our year and next year. This unique experience has expanded my understanding of problems in distant learning and the online school life for most of the international students in our campus, which I’ve also listed as a major one in my projects. But at the same time, I believe such a team campaign has kind of reflected the duty of Year Rep and the value of our campus, which is respecting diverse opinions and uniting the students of the year.

Melissa: First of all, I would like to say thank you to the people on my team. Thank you so much. Since I was already in Le Havre for this campaign, I was naturally able to organize a team of people who knew me well. This relationship allowed me to share my honest opinions and ideas with the team without hesitation. I also worked hard to listen to as many people as possible and make my ideas known, mainly through social networking sites.

3- You emphasized concepts such as diversity, openness, and genuine altruistic care as a similar sense of understanding between students through for instance, the wish of “letting our complementary voices of students and individuals be heard”, what did you concretely mean about it? What are your plans for tomorrow?

Gaby: For the most part of it it’s really the principle of being accessible to students because I consider the year rep being someone that you can literally message anytime about anything and for her to be able to guarantee a relatively fast response rate. Actually people who messaged me during my campaign know that I have pretty fast responsiveness. I want people to be comfortable coming and reaching out to me personally on any issues that they are facing since I really value the personal aspect of the function. Some people say “feelings are not the most important” but I think on the contrary that it’s incredibly important to me how people are feeling.

Janhvi: I think voicing an opinion is the key for good communication. Unless I don’t hear your thoughts and ideas properly, it doesn’t work out. Accepting that there might be a conflict between two opinions, should be for me the right thing to do. Everyone’s voice shall be heard and I’d like to be that bridge helping people to carry their voices towards the administration.

Jingwen: As the most international campus at SciencesPo, LH campus is like a microcosm of the world. The diversity and different concentrations of students from different cultural backgrounds also reflects the significance of representation of everyone. Moreover, as I mentioned in the General Assembly, the role of Year Rep is not only listening to all voices, but also making these diverse voices shared horizontally. I believe that embodies the true value of diversity.

Melissa: I think it’s important for me to not only listen to students’ voices, but also to connect and spread it. This campus is full of people who speak different languages. Due to that there are various kinds of communities such as the French community, Indian community, the Chinese community, and many other countries. So being a quadruple-language speaker helps me to connect with as many people as possible. And I think I’m the right person to convey the voices I’ve picked up to the admins and others as accurately as possible.

4- What triggering event led you to be a candidate for this campaign? Was it a long-term project?

Gaby: When I first heard about the campaign year rep election I thought that it would be funny to make a poster [available on general Facebook page]. The green poster is truly the initial one that I’ve made! Then I showed it to a friend who definitely encouraged me to run for the campaign so consequently I came to take it very seriously. Often Year Rep or representatives don’t tend to be assertive enough but rather the products of a popularity contest rewarding the nicest, sweetest… But I want to be voted for because I’m going to get things done, it is not a question of friendship.

Janhvi: I got along with a lot of people in Sciences Po, trying to share my voice with them, but without knowing that I would be presented myself as a year representative. But as I was representing my student council for four years back in the days, I knew how to manage this job, and wanted to be the “people person” I’ve always wanted. And at one moment, someone told me I may be qualified for this job, a job that would perfectly suit me, a job I know I can do well.

Jingwen: Well, actually it’s more like a sense of natural habit, since I’ve been in this role of coordinator for years and I cherish these experiences which made me feel more connected to students in my year and the admin as well. I feel like it’s my duty to speak for our campus with solving the problems, not just fixing a situation.

Melissa: It was a long-term desire to run for this campaign, and it started when I learned about the various committees and Year Rep at the ZOOM information session before I enrolled in Sciences Po. I was also on the student council in high school and I wanted to use that experience to my advantage.

5- What would be, according to you, your best and key quality to face any type of challenges?

Gaby: When you vote for a candidate, I believe that you really want to know who they are. You really want to understand what their personality is. So doing my campaign in a style that really reflects my personality was essential because I want people to know who they are really voting for. So I’m really assertive, I do want things to get done and creative by having new kinds of perspectives on every matter. Both make me a suitable candidate since I am hereby able to find creative and different solutions to problems. Things keep changing, just like we have seen with the Covid where we need this adaptability. Additionally I am assertive in a sense that I want to get things done even if it means pushing it through for any kind of problem on any level.

Janhvi: The most important thing would be patience. If I’m patient towards the people, it helps me understand them better, it helps me solve their problems while having a good thought about how to solve them. Patience would then be this key so as to look back, think about the issues, think about how everyone would be happy and satisfied about the results. I don’t believe in taking any rash decisions, that would be a bad way of acting for the students.

Jingwen: Being unflappable, I suppose… I’ve had experiences dealing with complicated situations while being the Year Representative in high school. Some of them required me to take a number of factors into account and some were tricky contingencies. The ability to take these situations calmly enabled me to avoid one-sided subjective decisions and presented the ideas based on everyone’s long-term interests.

Melissa: I consider myself a good listener, and I think it’s an important quality for a Year Rep whose major role is to listen. Also, as I mentioned earlier, my ability to speak four languages allows me to accurately pick up the voices of the students studying at Sciences Po to the best of my ability. By picking up as many voices as possible, I am confident that I will be able to bring the real voices of the students to the admins instead of setting my own standards.

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