By An Tong, Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham
At the beginning of my studies, I thought the best way to spend my university experience was by focusing solely on my academic achievement. However, it eventually came to my realization that I almost overlooked the importance of taking part in extracurricular activities.
The fastest way for an international student to get involved is by joining a society of your home country. This can help to overcome the feeling of homesickness as you first arrive in a new environment.
When I joined the Malaysian Society, I had the opportunity to meet some of my seniors, who taught me a lot about British cultural customs and answered my questions about university life. Apart from that, you can also build relationships by meeting new people with shared interests. The Guild of Students supports over 300 student groups, so it is easy to find a society that suits your hobby. They also hold plenty of events for non-members to take part in – from fun trips to career workshops!
Participating in extracurricular activities can demonstrate your uniqueness in a job application. Theoretical knowledge can be useful, but the ability to apply that knowledge into a practical job is also an extremely valuable skill to have. Personally, being a part of the Cameroon Catalyst Society has helped to boost my CV in a recent internship application. It has allowed me to provide evidence of skills that I have developed, including effective time management and team collaboration.
Cameroon Catalyst is a student-led international development charity that utilizes engineering knowledge to facilitate sustainable development in rural villages. Being involved can be very rewarding, especially knowing that you can make a real difference. Throughout the year, the committee and members hold weekly meetings to research and design our very own project. Furthermore, we organized a variety of fundraising events to raise money for the project, such as Krispy Kreme sales and pub quiz night. I have learned more about presenting my ideas and communicating with a group of people.
The Personal Skills Award (PSA) is another extracurricular opportunity that I will highly recommend. It is a recognized employability programme for undergraduate students, enabling you to prepare for real-world recruitment processes. Activities include skills sessions, online courses, voluntary experience and many more! For example, I was enrolled in an online course that teaches how to develop resilience and adaptability. My favourite aspect of the PSA is its flexibility to choose how you complete the programme over the duration of your degree. Despite my busy schedule, it can still be easily fitted around my other academic commitments.
Overall, it is important to choose something that suits your ability and interests so that you can have an enjoyable experience. There is a wide range of opportunities available in the university; you only need to take an initiative to seize the right opportunity.