OWhen Harriet Owen arrived at college, she made the unusual decision to join the beekeeping society, despite having no prior knowledge. “I looked through all the companies online, saw beekeeping and thought, ‘Oh, interesting, bees are cool,'” she says.
Owen, 21, who studies biomaterials science at the University of Sheffield, decided to stay stuck. She has since learned to check beehives and spot the queen (she is much larger) and has made wax candles and honey cakes. “Bees are so good for the environment,” she says, adding, “I think they’re pretty cute.”
Going to college isn’t just about academic work, and many students enjoy the activities they participate in outside of class. This may include volunteering, sports, or membership in student associations.
“Not only do you meet a wide variety of people, but you gain valuable leadership and teamwork skills, and it boosts your confidence,” says Iwan James, welfare and sports manager at Sheffield Students’ Union .
Attending events and meetings can also help you settle into your new surroundings. “Entering university is a transition,” says Paul Dodsley, head of student health development at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). “It’s a good time to try new things.”
Most universities will have hundreds of societies to choose from, spanning academic specialties, cultural and faith-based societies, media and creative groups, and those that are hobby-based or simply for fun. From knitting to Harry Potter, there will likely be a society for every interest, plus others you’ve never heard of.
Most universities hold a society fair at the start of the year, where you can see what’s on offer and ask questions – as well as collect a few freebies.
With so many choices, it can get overwhelming, says Dominique Thompson, GP and author of the Student Wellbeing series. Especially when many of us have seen our social lives limited by pandemic restrictions. Thompson says don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed by the options available. “I suggest people choose two activities,” she says.
“Pick one you feel comfortable with, so if you feel up to it, I strongly suggest picking one you know nothing about but are intrigued by,” she says. “There is nothing wrong with taking small steps. You don’t need to rotate multiple plates initially. But trying new things is so important and helps rebuild confidence.
It’s also a good idea to keep costs in mind. The ski company is likely to be more expensive than the baking club, for example.
While it’s probably not a good idea to choose your college entirely based on the extracurricular activities on offer, it’s something to consider when weighing your options, especially if there’s something you’re really passionate about, like a thriving theater scene or a top-flight sports team.
“I attended Nottingham and Nottingham Trent universities,” says Benedict Wills, president of the Nottingham Trent student union. “I saw that there were more social activities offered at NTU [and chose to go there]. It is therefore important to take this into account, because you will be there for three years.
Getting involved in extracurricular activities can also impress future employers. “All the skills you learn can really help your CV,” says Maisy Neale, 21, chair of the LGBTQ+ Society at Birmingham City University (BCU).
Either way, it’s always a good idea to try things out. “It’s something interesting that you can say you’ve been involved in,” says Owen, who found the beekeeping society a highlight of his college experience. “It’s something a bit unique to talk about.”
There is also no pressure to go to all possible social activities. As Owen explains, “For example, if you join the beekeeping society, you don’t have to go into the hive if you don’t want to. You can just come and eat honey cake.
Five Weird and Wonderful Student Societies
Assassin’s Guild, various universities. Not really a professional association for real assassins. Members participate in mock assassinations across town or college. Players are assigned targets to “assassinate” using toy weapons such as squirt guns or cardboard knives. Each player is also a target himself. Long games can last four weeks, by which time most of the company will have been eliminated.
Students of a Jane Austen Persuasion, Glasgow University. It’s a universally recognized truth that a student going to college will need a good company – and this one doesn’t disappoint. It organizes events throughout the year, from book groups to beanie making, as well as trips to Regency homes and film sets. If you’re a Mr Darcy fan, this might be the one for you.
quick sock, Lincoln University. A society that is built on a shared appreciation of Taylor Swift. Open to hardcore and casual Swift fans – known as “Swifties” – they host listening, song and movie nights.
jailbreak company, various universities. As part of a charity event, groups of players must get as far away as possible from the “jail” – the college campus – within 36 hours. In previous years, some students even went as far as New York.