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Why the Societies I Joined Defined My University Experience

Why the Societies I Joined Defined My University Experience main image

I don’t think I’d be the first one to say that my university experience was made infinitely more enjoyable by the various societies I joined. I would even go as far as to say that the things I gained from these societies were almost on par with what I gained from my economics degree. The societies I was part of, particularly fencing society, really helped my personal development at university and I graduated with a lot more confidence and the knowledge that if I worked hard at something, I would improve.

Rejecting societies in first year

My first year was not as I’d hoped it would be. As I desperately tried (and failed) to fit in with the group in the flat I had been assigned to, I felt properly lonely for the first time in my life. Having been surrounded by a close group of friends at school, who had now moved all around the country and all seemed to have plenty of new friends at their various universities, I hated that I now felt I had no one I could confide in.

It never crossed my mind that I should join a university society. My first few weeks of first year left me feeling lethargic and isolated and the thought of trying something and failing at it was something I could just not bear to face at the time. By the time my mindset was better it felt too late to join.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone

By the time second year came around, my head was in a much better place and I had a small group of close friends who I lived with. I was determined to go out and join as many societies as possible to make up for what I missed out on in my second year. I signed up for everything going; kickboxing, archery, fencing, sign language, netball, photography, the student newspaper. I went to all the taster sessions (sometimes with friends, sometimes alone) and ended up sticking with fencing, sign language and the student newspaper.

Before the fencing taster session, I remember standing silently outside the room with all the other new people, wondering if I should go to a gym group class that night instead because I was just too nervous to talk to anyone. I’m so glad I didn’t. Deciding that I just needed to swallow my nerves, I walked up to another girl on her own and introduced myself. She ended up becoming one of my best friends.

It turned out a lot of people felt the way I had felt, and more and more people started joining in on our conversation, thankful that someone had broken the ice and started talking. Before we knew it, we had formed a little group. The session itself was really fun, and I couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was. I loved how they acknowledged from the start that it was fine if you’d never done anything like this before.

I found a similar pattern with all the taster sessions I attended after that, and the more I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, the more confident I felt and the more friends I gained.

What I gained from the societies I joined

Some of the societies I loved from the beginning. The student newspaper, for example, encouraged and developed my passion for writing and the sign language society taught me a completely new skill and helped me make some great new friends.

Fencing was different. I found the sport aspect of it kind of boring to start with, but I stayed for the people. We went to the university bar for food and drink after every session and before I knew it, I had a whole new group of friends who were all completely different to one another. I met my now boyfriend there, as well as the good friend I currently share a flat with since graduating. I made friends with people on my course, with neighbors that lived a few doors down and with people who worked in the university cafes (free coffee = a win in my eyes.) The socials were brilliant – I distinctively remember one where we all dressed up as pirates and got kicked out of a club for having a sword fight in a club.

It was only later that I tried out different aspects of the sport and found a part of it that I really loved; sabre. I threw myself into the sports aspect of fencing (not literally of course, as throwing yourself into a bunch of swords is probably not a great idea). As I improved, new opportunities arose; the chance to compete against teams from other universities, competing in varsity, becoming the welfare officer for the university society and even learning to drive a minibus! I also gained a confidence in the knowledge that this is something I had really worked at and I was good at it. Yes, I made mistakes, but I also learnt and improved from them. I loved finally feeling part of something.

How it’s helped since graduating

The teamwork element of societies is something that I have found very useful when it came to interviews in the future, because that is ultimately what societies, especially sports ones, teach you; how to work well in a team. Employers also like to see something extra on your CV besides your education and your work experience – it can really help you stand out from other applicants.

Being part of a university society can also teach you a lot about managing your workload. For example, whilst I was on the team, I was fencing three times a week, which really meant it was important for me to plan with my coursework and other university work and prioritize my time. Committee positions can also look great on your CV or resume, as they are proof that you can handle responsibility.

So are societies worth the effort?

Whether you’re starting university soon or a current student, I could not recommend trying out university societies enough. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, it’s definitely worth trying out a few – most university societies offer free taster sessions in the first week. It’s like the saying goes; you won’t know until you try! There’s not much to lose and an awful lot to gain.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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