Widening your Horizons and Extra Curricular Opportunities in EPS

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By Henry, Computer Science
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

Within every department at the University of Birmingham, there is a wide range of societies. You’re by no means limited, however, to those within your own school, and there are currently over 300 active societies registered with the Guild. I’ve spent most of my time with the societies in my own College; so I’ll run through my experiences and the things that might appeal to you!

Motor Racing club presents the opportunity to stand on a podium!

By the end of my first year, I was involved in the Computer Science Society, Formula Student – an international engineering competition to design and build a race car, the Motor Racing club – about going fast in go-karts, and was looking forward to joining the Ethical Hacking society (but ran out of time when the year was unexpectedly shortened).

Despite being a Computer Science student, I have an interest in engineering and spend a lot of my own time around cars (driving, breaking and repairing them). The societies I chose not only allowed me to develop my interests outside of my courses’ specification but also allowed me to become involved with completely different departments right on the other end of the STEM spectrum.

It’s not just EPS either – I had friends who were involved with some of the dance societies and I had a play with joining them for a rehearsal. There are more opportunities than you could ever possibly try, which makes for fantastic choosing; whether something to suit your existing interests or a completely new experience.

However geeky your interest, there’s someone else the same!

Societies are just one community at the University of Birmingham – the entire student body is another. If you can’t find a society to suit a hobby you have, you’re not out of luck. Anyone can start a society through the Guild of Students if there is an interest (and you’ll be given support in running the society), but you’ll also find that there are some communities that aren’t official societies.

 This is true for skateboarding, which I discovered when I was approached by a fellow student while skating on campus, who let me know of the group chat and took my details to add me. If you’re not as visible when expressing your interests, the entire university community can be reached through a post to the Fab’n’Fresh Facebook group.

Events and activities that a society organises can be extremely varied – the Computer Science Society does everything from formal networking events to help further your career, to games nights and pub nights, and of course the end of year ball. Motor Racing isn’t just about speeding around either, there’s a sports night every other Wednesday, and UBRacing has just as strong a social culture as a work ethic.

The Computer Science Ball is the flagship event for CSS with over 200 people attending this year.

The flexibility offered is second to none – these aren’t like school clubs where you get a timetabled hour after the academic day, here you can choose when and where to be and how much to do. As part of CSS, you can do every 24-hour hackathon if you so wish, or you can just pick and choose any of the events, as to fit around your life. I went for a curry with the UBRacing team in the evening, and then a pair of us rebuilt an engine overnight. My parents thought I was mad, but I had no early lectures the next day and it was great to have the workshop to ourselves.

I highly recommend finding out about the societies, whether a prospective or current student – who knows; you might discover a whole new side…