Sophia Taylor was part of the winning team in the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition 2015, where she was also awarded Best Speaker. Recently graduated from university with a degree in English Literature and Art History, she is currently working at the ESU in the Membership & Engagement team, while looking forward to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest!
When did you first hear about the ESU?
My secondary school English teacher, Lori Winch-Johnson, was chair of the Guildford branch, and did a brilliant job inspiring a love of public speaking amongst local pupils. The branch is now chaired by another of my former teachers, Michelle Williams, and continues to do a fantastic job recruiting young members.
How and why did you become involved?
After the Public Speaking Competition, I really enjoyed getting involved with the ESU at branch level, and have been so grateful to have been welcomed onto the Guildford committee from the age of about 16. I’ve also been lucky enough to try my hand at many of the ESU’s fantastic volunteering opportunities, from judging the ISPC, to delivering mentoring sessions in schools. If you have even a couple of hours to spare, I’d really recommend reaching out and seeing how you can help out in your area.
What did you get out of the ESU’s competitions?
Beyond the vital, practical experience which comes with writing speeches, fielding questions from others, and communicating with clarity, I really credit the PSC with giving me a sense of confidence and purpose that has stayed with me for life. Being able to present yourself and your ideas with assurance, especially as a young woman, is such a critical skill to develop – and the PSC provides a platform to do just that.
What is it about our work/mission that appeals to you most?
I really admire that the ESU is an international organisation which fosters ambition. It’s a place where young people across the globe are given so much opportunity to develop and pursue their goals, both within and beyond competitions – if you throw yourself into things, you’ll get so much in return.
What do you feel you get out of your ESU membership?
Something about the ESU that I’ve always been appreciative of is its people. Whether that’s the staff at Dartmouth House, or those members tirelessly doing vital work at branch level – it’s always been an absolute delight to meet so many interesting and passionate people at ESU events. There’s a genuine feeling of support and welcome that radiates from this organisation which is hard to find elsewhere.
Whom do you admire and why?
My housemates and I indulged in a fair amount of binge-watching over lockdown, which is why I’m tempted to say that my answer is probably a tie between Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Their humour hits the perfect balance between witty and ridiculous, and I really appreciate that they’re women who aren’t afraid to look silly.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I’m an unabashed Eurovision fan – where else will you find geopolitical tensions play out alongside questionable Euro-pop? It’s a highlight of the year in my house.
Tell us something surprising about you
It’s an unusual occupation, but as a university student and graduate, I’ve worked as a cheesemonger! Consequently, I’ve developed a reputation for throwing some smashing cheese and wine evenings…
What’s the most important lesson life has taught you?
To embrace spontaneity – some of the best moments are unplanned!