Simon Beelen, CSO Chairperson

Student representation is something I deem most important, specially in projects, cases and affairs concerning the student life. For this reason, I am very active in my local student union at the KU Leuven. This union, VTK,  is the official student association of the faculty of engineering science

in Leuven and every member is elected by the students to do student representation on a departmental, a facultairy and a university wide level. In this association I have the specific role of team coordinator of VTK International. Within this function, my job was 2-sided. On the one, hand I’m responsible for a good stay of every international student at my faculty, both on the entertainment side and the college and study related side. On the other hand, I am responsible for the student representation concerning international affairs, projects and other business concerning international students and outgoing exchange students.

In the summer of 2022, KU Leuven started its 2 year mandate of CLUSTER presidency. The vice-dean of International Affairs of my faculty, Jozef Vander Sloten, in turn became CLUSTERs Secretary-General. One of the main points of KU Leuven’s presidency was the restart of the CLUSTER Student Organisation (CSO), which had died out due to COVID. For me, the choice to join in this adventure was easily made. In conversation with prof. Vander Sloten, I decided to become the president of the CSO for the academic year 2022-2023.

My first job was to find students from other member universities to join the CSO, with this I received help from CLUSTERs Administrative Coordinator  Jules Vanpée. To simplify this, local BEST groups were contacted and became Fien Bostijn, president of BEST Leuven, the Secretary-General of the CSO. After a team of students from almost every member was found, we divided ourselves over the CLUSTER Working Groups. This way, we had students present in every meeting of every project and affair concerning students.

Since the start of my mandate, I have had the opportunity to work closely with multiple important persons and had the chance to get to know tons of people from all over Europe and other continents. I very quickly learned how much the opinions of students are valued in other universities, as I already knew how it worked at KU Leuven and how the students played its effect on local cases. Besides I very much enjoyed playing a key role in an interuniversity wide level of student representation and could play my influence in cases concerning the improvement of engineering study in Africa, mobility affairs that give students more international possibilities etc. Further it gave me a lot of joy to see a project being developed in 10 to 12 universities at the same time because of CLUSTER and it was joyful to see how every university collaborates both efficiently and productively. Also I got the opportunity to travel to Montreal for the CLUSTER General Assembly.

Additionally I received the chance to be a co-organiser in a symposium about 2 of the main focuses of CLUSTER, these being entrepreneurship and the engineering degree in Africa. With this I learned about how to organize large events. In the meantime it was great fun to see how the whole event coming together in both content related as all the practical details. With this I would like to thank Jules Vanpée for playing a more than vital role in this event and completing most of the tasks.