This Summer, Wiktoria joined us for her placement and wasted no time in getting involved! She had the pleasure of interviewing the indomitable and all round fun, Elina Kaha. Elina finished at the University of Bradford with a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology and a Master’s degree in Human Osteology and Palaeopathology. In this week’s ‘This is Us: University of Bradford’, we find out about Elina’s experience as a student living in Bradford.
How would you describe your role?
During my years as a student, I was a member of Musical Group BUSOM, executive in RamAir and President of Bradford Student Cinema. I was a president of Student Radio as well as a studio manager. With my course mates, I started the Forensic and Archaeological Science Society. I have been also Council Representative for Media Areas, Chair and Treasurer in Activities Committee. In my last year, I was an Environment and Ethics Officer. My last role at the University of Bradford Union was Treasurer of the Activities Committee. Every month we gave out an Award for Activity and Executive of the Month. I made sure we had the money for the awards, filled all the financial forms and delivered the prizes to the winners. I also sat in the Committee for the Activities Ball, which was very difficult to organise. In July 2021, I started a new position at the University of Bradford Union – Sports and Activities Assistant.
How has the lockdown affected you & your work?
I was still a Chair of the Activities Committee when the pandemic and first lockdown started. I was already aware of how to run the Activities Committee and thanks to a very good schedule, we managed to continue weekly meetings and assemblies. We had a very good flow going and I think that helped us a lot. As a result, our job was quite nice and pleasant in the Activities Committee.
On the other hand, I missed out on the part where you can see people. I didn’t mind online meetings for the Activities Committee as they were easier and more convenient for some people, but I found it tough that I couldn’t go to the Union office and ask questions in person. It was very difficult for me and other students, that pandemic took away our spontaneity. I also believe that when you appear in the office you receive more support than through emails and online meetings. After walking into the office, students always come up with new questions and ideas, while writing an email it is more difficult to put your thoughts into one message.
What exciting projects are you working on right now?
Before I finished my role as an Environment and Ethics Officer, I put in a grant application for the Council to get a grant for our Green Ambassador project. We want to build a greenhouse and do other green projects on campus. A few weeks ago, we received a positive answer from them, so right now I am trying to get everything sorted out and finalise the project.
I am also a part of the Bee Group, where we take care of bees on the campus, which as I found out produces a lot of honey. I was certified, so now I can take care of bees, so as soon as I am back on campus, I will also do the bee inspections and gather some honey when it’s ready. I would also want to guide and support incoming Environment and Ethics Officer because I know what they would have to get through, and I want to be there and help them out.
A highlight of your time on campus/ in the role so far?
In my first year as the President of Bradford Student Cinema (BSC), I decided to change everything we’d done in the past. In previous years, when I was only a member of BSC, we had some screenings where no one appeared. It was very sad, and I thought that it is not how it is supposed to be. The year when I became president, we had no cancelled or empty screenings, and we doubled the number of participants. I have started giving out free food for the participants because I thought those 2 hours of watching a movie are a time to relax for students, where they do not have to worry about university or anything else. That year I worked very hard to achieve that result and I also received an Exec of the Year Award. I was very proud of myself, as that was also the year when I graduated with my Bachelor’s. During that year, I spent most of my time at the campus and I went back home just to eat and sleep.
A memorable story from your time on campus?
I had a lot of sweet moments during my work at BSC. We did the family-friendly screenings, and I wanted more kids to come. I remember there was one family with three, four children and every time they were leaving the cinema, the kids were like “Oh, thank you so much. Thank you for doing this.”. And each time I just melted. Those kids were so sweet, they just come to you and thank you. They were the sweetest things ever. I was like “this is why I do this”. The screenings were on Sundays at 1 pm and everybody was like “I do not want to do this on Sunday”, but I gladly did them, because of those little kids saying how grateful they are for a movie and asking when the next one was. When I am back, I would like to try to organise some family-friendly screenings.
A surprising fact about yourself?
The funny thing I like to tell people is that I am a Certified Sexual Educator. I think when I was either 14 or 16, my mother asked me if I would like to go for fun training. I did not know what I had signed up for. My mum is a sex educator and gynaecologist, and it was a youth group peer-to-peer sexual education training. I was a part of it for quite a long time and there was a time when I was also a Youth Leader in my region. So, yes, I was doing sexual education for children and young people. I always found the stigma around sex education and intimacy very weird, because I grew up in a very liberal family where things were discussed.
I think that thanks to this and all the other opportunities I had as a young person, I am very open-minded about everything and everybody. I come from a very patriotic, closed-minded country and I always felt that my family and I were never quite like that. And thanks to that I became very free and liberal.
What inspires you?
I feel like my main role models my whole life were my parents. My mother, when she was younger, she did volunteer and she still does things like helping in the developing countries with sexual education. My father is a workaholic and I think that is what I got from him. He would always like to do everything and anything he can to help people. I feel like I do the same thing, but I got this discipline from my mother, that I leave work where work belongs. I do not like to bring it home that much. But I still find myself doing work at ridiculous hours, because I am like “this person needs an answer right now”. My parents were always big supporters of mine, so no matter what I decided or did, they were always behind me, they were always supportive, and they were always proud of me.
If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?
I would say that even though I did not care that much about what people say or think about me most of my life, but I think that my younger self thought about what people would think when I do certain things. So, I would say “You should take more opportunities that you are given and go for things because losing is not the worst thing that can happen”. I am deadly afraid of losing because I know I am good at things and the worst part is when you know you are good at things, and you lose to someone who is not good at that. So, I would say to myself “You just need to take more risks. They will work out and you will be at a point you want.”.
Tell me about an experience that shaped the person you are today?
I feel like that would be the first time I did the training to become a sex educator because from there I found out I am a very good presenter; I enjoy standing in front of people and teaching them. Also, while I was volunteering at the first university, I stood up in front of the people and I teach them how to teach.
I feel like from my first experience doing things that are not so conventional for young people, even though I was already confident, I learnt that I could stand in front of people, talk and I know they would listen and be interested. When I know what I am talking about, I can talk for hours and make people listen and understand what I am saying. I also found out that it is very helpful during the university, where I had to present many things and while everybody else was super nervous standing in front of the lecturer and their course mates, I enjoyed it and I loved it and my grades reflected it. So yes, I found out that the opportunity that was given to me accidentally by my mother shaped me in a way that made me open, confident and who I am in general.
If you could time travel 100 years, would you go into the past or the future? And why?
I already know that, because I would like to go to the past because I really like the 1920s, but I would not like to be in Estonia. I need to be in America and there are certain things I need to be and have. I have to be rich because it was a time of flappers and prohibition, and when you were rich you had all of those opportunities and all these fancy things. But if you were poor, you were not in such good shape. I really like this period, because Great Gatsby was also written to be from these times and it is one of my favourite books. I would like to see that life myself, so definitely to the past. And because the value of money changes, the money I have now is worth so much more in the 1920s, so I think I would be in a quite nice situation. Just go to America and enjoy the nice life they had in New York City.
What are you fearful of in the future and what are you hopeful of?
I always fear the unknown. I think it is with everything in my life, like when I am in the sea and I cannot see the bottom and something touches my feet, because it is unknown it is very scary for me. I think it is the same for the future, I think I am the most fearful that I do not know what is going happen and what is going to come. This is why I do not like to think that much ahead because you cannot put the plans in already, because you do not know what is going to happen with your life. I am hopeful that this job I got right now and the things I have planned for next year will go well. That my situation stays the same, that I have a stable job, a stable life, a stable family, I am happy, I am healthy and that the things will go only better.
What question are you never asked that you wish you were?
I do not think I have any questions I would like to be asked, because I ask a lot of questions. I am a very extroverted person, and I was told many times that I do not have a filter, so a lot of times I ask the questions people are afraid to ask or they are not so willing to discuss. Recently, I asked my friends who are a couple a few questions they never thought about and they were like “OMG, this is true, we should talk about it”. And for me, it was very weird that people who are in a relationship for such a long time have not talked about things like that.
I question a lot; I want and need to know and that brings me calmness because I do not like to not know. That is why I take all the information usually into and that is why in the Union also I know a lot of things because I ask a lot of questions and I remember stuff in a way that I can also give the information to the other people, even though sometimes they might not know how to ask the questions, but then I can guide them towards the things they want and need to know.
If you enjoyed getting to know Elina, you will love the rest of the ‘This is Us’ series. Check out my previous chats with Tuiya and Jacqueline and stay tuned for more coming soon!
‘This is Us: University of Bradford” is an explorative blog series with the aim of shining a light on the people that make up our vibrant university campus community, where Theatre in the Mill is located. Through these blogs, you will get to know a little more about the people behind the institution; their stories, wisdom and aspirations.
Also, I always appreciate feedback so if you have any ideas that would enhance this blog series, feel free to drop me a line – firstname.lastname@example.org .