In conversation with Hughes PhD student, Sheng Hsiang Lancelot Peng
Tell us about the role
I was in the second year of my PhD when elected as the president of the Cambridge Taiwanese Society (CTS). It was a great honour and it’s also been great fun! Being a society president enables you to build up new relationships and to network with University officers, college administrators, and other society members. You are not just enriching your CV but contributing to a diverse and more inclusive educational environment at Cambridge.
Tell us about the aims and activities of CTS
Cambridge Taiwanese Society strives to promote awareness and understanding of different aspects of Taiwan, bringing Taiwanese students at Cambridge and anyone interested together through various social and cultural events. From Lunar New Year reunion dinner and exchange events to small gatherings such as picnic day, we hope to cultivate a sense of community among Taiwanese people at Cambridge and to be an ambassador for Taiwanese culture across the university.
What was the highlight of your year in post?
It is a tradition in our society to hold “Taiwanese Oxbridge”, an annual exchange activity with the Taiwanese Society at the University of Oxford. Cancelled the previous year, my highlight was definitely the long-awaited Taiwanese Oxbridge 2022 exchange. Our committee and members travelled to Oxford and had a great experience with Oxford’s Taiwanese students.
Were you able to support others?
We were able to help members many times, for example, regarding challenges around travel and official documentation over the last year. By liaising with the Taiwanese Representative Office in the UK and acting as a go-between, we helped members journey back home safely with the documentation required. It was a great learning experience for me too as I learnt to navigate the systems around university administrators and government offices from Taiwan.
Did your society reach beyond the university?
Working with people outside Cambridge University is actually common in CTS as we have several events that call for external support. For instance, in the 2021 International Food Festival we worked with the International Students’ Campaign and we collaborated with local food vendors and restaurants around Cambridgeshire to serve Taiwanese snacks and savories. It was a great success and more environmentally friendly to work with professionals.
Would you recommend taking on a role like this?
Yes I would but only if you’re fond of functions, activities, and open to giving new things a try whilst also being happy to deal with the advisory and regulatory side of things. If you can imagine yourself working with other committee members, convening meetings and as long as you identify with the motive behind the society, then why not? You’ll have the chance to become a driving force behind its development including new and innovative ideas for what comes next.
Any tips for working with a committee and within the governance structures?
The committee is there to support you so take time to understand the role of each member. Also, getting to know how it runs helps so you can tailor your manifesto and speech well! You can help set the tone of how things run yourself – the AGM is pivotal and can be quite informal or formal, depending upon the climate of the society and the personality of the current committee. A president of a society at Cambridge University is accountable to the Proctors’ and Marshal’s Office; all clubs and societies are registered with them and must upload annual documentation.
What support did you get in the role?
My fellow committee members were a great source of support. Also, my College provided a lot of help during my presidency in CTS – things would not have been so smooth without the hard work and professionalism of the staff – they helped me in hosting socials, running activities and managing the logistics of large-scale events, and I was able to use college and MCR resources in doing so. Thanks to everyone who helped! I would also like to express my thanks to my CTS committee members who have worked hard to keep the society organised.
Good luck to anyone considering joining a committee – it’s worth the effort!