Starting life at university can be quite an anxious time. You’re leaving school friends, the comfort of your family and you’re being thrown into a world of complete strangers!
“Join a society!” The well-known advice given to all freshers who express some pre-uni nerves.
This is perfectly good advice. Joining societies lets you bond with a group of people with similar interests to you in a no-pressure, fun environment.
But, once you’ve decided you want to join a society, how do you find one that you’ll love?
Use your noggin to consider these 5 things when on the hunt for the best university society for you.
- Try not to be anyone that you’re not
It’s tempting when browsing a list of hundreds of societies to choose something totally out of your comfort zone – that’s great! Trying new things is a huge part of life at uni.
However, there are some things that you just know deep down aren’t for you.
Don’t ignore your gut instincts.
Some of us just aren’t cut out for kayaking (me for one). A lot of us will never find joining a political club a good use of our evenings. There’s nothing wrong with having no interest at all in your student newspaper.
It’s ok to do things you’ve always loved doing!
You’re more likely to find people you click with when you’re joining a society you genuinely feel like you could enjoy rather than doing something that you think might make you look cool or interesting.
- Don’t give up after a week!
Freshers week is not your only chance of trying out a new society. Most clubs will be delighted to welcome new members all throughout the year so don’t lose heart if you haven’t found your thing within a couple of weeks.
If you’re unsure about joining a society later into the year, shoot over a message to the committee members and they’ll be able to give you an idea of what to expect. There’ll also know to keep an eye out for you and make you feel extra welcome!
Keep researching what’s out there and keep testing the waters – discovering a great society of people 6 months into uni is better than never discovering it at all!
- Keep your ears open!
Obviously, you should never do something just because your mates are doing it. No amount of archery talk from my housemates will ever tempt me into picking up a bow and arrow.
That being said, if your friends have mentioned a society that sounds like your thing, don’t be afraid of looking like a sheep and tagging along. You must have things in common with your friends for you to hang out, so there’s a high chance you’ll have a similar interest in societies.
Plus, having a mate there to introduce you to people can help break the ice and make things less nerve-wracking!
Similarly, if you go along to a society with a friend and you’re not feeling it, don’t stay for your friends sake. Spend that time doing something you want to do, even if it’s watching Gavin and Stacey for the 22nd time.
- Do your research, jocks!
If you’re serious about a particular sport and want to compete for your university, do some prior research into the trial and selection process.
Depending on your uni and the sport, there may be several events you must attend in order to get a place on the team. There could be teams at different ability levels, development squads and social teams.
Make sure you’re in the right place at the right time!
Serious sports societies are less lenient when it comes to late joiners, especially when it comes to competing with other universities. If you’re the next Roger Federer, you don’t want your Wimbledon chances squashed because you forgot to turn up for trials!
- Get chatting!
How much you enjoy a society will depend on the connections you make with the people, not necessarily the sport or activity itself.
It can be easy to write off a society if you don’t make an effort to socialise with other members.
For some, this is a walk in the park. But, for others, it can cause a whole lot of social anxiety.
Forget about how many people might be in the society and focus on striking up a conversation with just one person. Look out for people on their own who might be looking for a buddy.
Or, if you want to be really efficient, get chatting to someone who looks like they’ve been in the society for a while and you’ll be introduced to all their friends. Boom. Instant bonding.
Once you take the first step and put yourself out there, it’s surprising how easily it can snowball into great friendships.
It sounds cringe but the winning formula to find the best society for you is to stay true to yourself and your interests, and to be outgoing in your approach.
Stay patient and you’ll find your people.