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Interview: VP Activities Candidate, Mufaro ‘Muffin’ Olisi

Where are you originally from?
I am from Zimbabwe.

What course do you study?
I’m doing Law with Business.

What year are you in?
Second year.

Are you enjoying it?
Ahhh well… it’s alright, it’s a lot of work. But it’s alright.

What drew you to the University of Portsmouth?
Erm, well back in my country they did this university expo and I met this lady who came to university here. She told me all about it and how it’s basically a city filled with students, three quarters of everyone here is a student. And I figured it seemed like a really chilled, pretty nice place to live for someone my age. So I figured that’s probably the place for me.

What is your favourite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
I’m going to have to say the beach, because we don’t have them where I’m from. So when I came here, I was like wow that’s so much water!

Have you ever been in the sea?
Yeah, it’s pretty cold! But I forced myself to go and just to look at it.

Who is your idol and why?
Ohhh okay. Erm… I’m not sure if people will understand this reference but, I’m going to go with Sandra Bullock. Especially in the movie The Blind Side. I don’t know if you’ve watched that but the way, to be someone who’s so powerful as to, you know, look beyond colour or what everyone else is saying. To be strong enough to say I’m going to do this because it’s right, not because it’s what everyone else thinks about me. Just because it’s right. That was really powerful for me. Side note, that is my favourite movie of all time. It actually is, because of the message, I thought it was really powerful.

What is your dream job?
Honestly? Anything that involves travel. Really, I would love to work in like advertising or something and just spend my time going to different places, finding out, okay, how do you do this so that we could do it better as well? So, not anything specific, and I know that makes me sound wishy-washy but pretty much anything to do with going places. I don’t like being in one place for a long time.

If you won the lottery what’s the first thing that you would buy?
Ah my gosh! I don’t even know where to start. I would buy… Like how much are we talking? How much did I win?

Go big, dream big!
The first thing I’m going to buy is a private jet.

Oh! For your traveling?
Yep! That’s the first thing I’m going to buy, is a private jet. I’ll practically live in it. I will live in my jet. Even if it takes up all the money, I’m good with that!

What was the primary reason for you running in the student elections?
Okay well, I say mostly because when I started university here my dad and I had gone through a list of all the societies while I was still back at home. He said to me, oh my gosh the possibilities are endless, like you could literally join anything. And then I got here and I was super excited, there was freshers’ week. But going through that motion I realised, you can’t actually be anything because I feel like there’s this unsaid thing, which isn’t actually there. That you have to fit into a certain bubble to be in that society. Such that, at the end you don’t. So in my first year I ended up joining the law society because, well I was studying Law so it made sense. But I really wanted to be in a lot of other things but I felt like I wouldn’t fit in them.

So when I started my second year, I said you know what I’m not going to be that person. So I joined Bollywood. Okay, and most people would think like oh, this is just full of Indian girls but it’s not actually and people go out of their way to make you feel welcome because they want you to be in their societies. Because people don’t really try because they think there’s a bubble, they don’t join. But people in those societies are welcoming, they want you to join, they want the diversity.

I found that too, like at the very start of university. Where you’ve come from, with different backgrounds, you just assume it. But coming here, it is completely different and I think it’s popping that bubble sooner. I like that!
Yeah, so I figured I want the next freshers to come and say you know what maybe I’m from Africa but I’m going to be in the Indian society. Maybe I want to box even though I’m a tiny girl and I want to do track. Like the possibilities, the university makes it so that they are endless. So people should be able to know that and just do what they want to do regardless of everything else. That’s why I’m running.

If you could change one thing that would instantly improve everyday life for students at the university, what would it be and why?
I would say the issue of lectures. Right most, not all, but I’m aware that most lectures are recorded and you can listen to them after in case you couldn’t make it and such. But I feel like they should be visual as well because, I won’t lie listening back to someone I can’t see is a bit hard. And I’m pretty sure that’s true for most people. So being able to see them and actually listen to them at the same time. So if I could change anything, it would be like having visual learning. Because sometimes people don’t make it to lectures not because they had a late night and they couldn’t get up but that they genuinely cannot [attend]. So I feel like that would be something really helpful because they would feel like they’ll still connecting with the lecturer even though they didn’t make it for the lecture.

Could you sum up your manifesto for us in ten seconds?
Okay, it’s about safety. It’s about engaging. It’s about being informed of everything that’s going on around you. It’s about togetherness, diversity. It’s equality, it’s feministic, because I’m all about that life – sorry guys. But I’m all about the power of the female and and yeah, that’s my manifesto.

How do you intend to promote the union to our less engaged students?
Okay, well first of all I think it should be something that’s started from the get go. Don’t leave it too late because if you do, they start to lose interest that when you try to reach out now, there’s this whole gap that you can’t breach. So, you need to start at freshers, and I know there’s freshers’ week and you make them aware. But that obviously isn’t enough any more. So if that means, I don’t know, giving people like buddies in societies. Then yes, if it means having more than one freshers’ week then do that because once they leave first year and they keep going. It’s kind of too late, it really is. Because I’ve talked to friends of mine in second year and third year who aren’t in societies and they say well, what’s the point, I’m leaving now anyway. So like, getting them first year, is probably the best way to make sure, as they go on, they keep being engaged with societies.

This role deals with a diverse range of activities and students. What experience do you have that will help you deal with the diverse population and its demands?
Well I think being diverse myself, that’s kind of helpful. And because I feel like I’m a very open individual. I also did charity work for about six years, I worked with orphans and old people from like different scopes of life and I feel I’ve developed this, I can’t say tolerance, but this level of understanding about different people and where you come from and that sometimes they clash. But, because of that experience and because of who I am and how I’ve been raised to not see colour or anything like that. Then I feel like I’m really equipped to be able to deal with situations like that, to enjoy them. Like I said, I’m in Bollywood and it’s great! I’m probably the only black girl in there but I don’t feel like that, it’s just so much fun. And that’s what it should be and I feel like because of that, it’s even like my Bollywood experience, that I can deal with diversity and culture from different places.

Why do you think you are the best person for this role?
Oh, okay, I’ve practiced this one! Okay, well, first of all I’m going to point to my other fellow campaign-ees (sic) for this role. And I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two. Tom and Chris, and they’re great guys. But looking at their and everyone’s manifesto, I feel like there were gaps or the thought process in building them up hadn’t really been centred on the whole university and maybe only on like a small group of people. So, for example, Roy, bless him, talks about the bus and schedules and so on. And I know for a fact that in halls, when you start in halls they give you the route and schedules for the bus. But then I also thought like that’s not really an activities centred problem.

And I think it’s Tom who talks about helping students go out and work internationally, which again I felt was more of an education or even welfare thing. So I sat down with myself and I said okay, as someone who’s running for activities, what am I giving you that clearly these guys are missing?Activities, it’s about society, it’s about engagement, planning events. But I felt like most of them, all of their points missed the mark. So, what am I doing differently that they failed to do? I feel, my first point which is about the ‘get me home safely’ movement, which someone could say well that’s welfare. But I’m like no, because let’s face it, it’s a student city and we have so many social events, people will go out.

And if being VP of Activities makes you the ultimate host, as a good host, you have to make sure everyone gets home safely. That’s what a good host does. And so that’s why I want to promote this. If that means letting girls know where to get pepper spray, if it means giving brief self defence classes or even panic buttons so that when you’re drunk or can’t get home or you’ve lost your mates. You press it, and it’s going to alert someone you trust. Because let’s face it sometimes you can’t find your phone or type. So maybe not even panic buttons just for girls because sometimes even guys get so drunk that they lose their friends. They need that button as well, they can’t drive but they need to get home.

So that’s one, two is that I’m offering diversity. Portsmouth is a very diverse place with international students, transfers, everything and you need to be able to work with that salad bowl. And I am proposing to make the best salad ever known to man. Literally, that’s what I want to do with my second point. And the third one is, I’ll tell you something really sad is that most people don’t know there is a university radio, or magazine, or newspaper.

*Nods sadly and heavily in agreement*

I know, it hurts but they don’t and I feel like it’s so sad because the union is going out of its way to make sure students are informed about things and are entertained. But they don’t even know that which is pretty shameful. And I feel like it’s really important if someone is going to go to lengths to do something you should feel the full benefits or it, you should be aware of it. So, that’s what I want to do. So that’s what I’m bringing. Like I’ve said, if anyone has read my manifesto, I’m bringing safe, informed fun and that’s what I’m about. I want you to be informed, I want you to be safe. But I want people to come to university and have the full experience. Not just get a degree. But to go and say I was in countless societies, I met so many people. Just like, the full university experience. Just not like ‘Oh you know I studied there and then I left.’ That’s what I’m pushing for.

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