Getting Involved in Societies at Birmingham

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By Emily, Physics
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

If you’ve ever visited the University of Birmingham, you’d probably remember the Guild of Students. It’s the building with the mermaid fountain in the courtyard – the huge building is known for being full of eateries, computers and seating, and as the headquarters to all the student groups.

Before you arrive at the university, it would be a good idea to look for a list of available groups or societies on the Guild website. Sit down and take time to do this, as there are literally hundreds of them, ranging from skydiving to sign language. Whether your passion is Marxism, railways, or watching bad films on purpose, there is probably a group for you, and if there isn’t, you can just start a new society yourself (Karl Marx would be proud).

The cost of joining a society is usually a one-off fee, often as little as £3, so university is the perfect time and place to find your new hobby. What is a university education for, but to allow you to go home and update your families on your new obsession with battle re-enactment?

Introductory sessions can be attended for free, so there is no reason not to fill up your week. It would be the most unpredictable week of your life if not for careful planning – there’s a lot on offer! Society timetables can be found on their respective Facebook pages or stalls at the societies’ fair held during Freshers’ week.

Other ways to fill your free time and meet new people are to get involved with the university’s sport and fitness opportunities. Even if you don’t want to subscribe to a weekly workout routine by having a gym membership, you can always book classes and sessions in the Olympic sized swimming pool whenever you want without being a member. Bookings can be done online or at the gym. Gym memberships are in high demand in these modern times of Instagram fitness culture, so always best to act fast!

Free language courses are another useful free resource that the university offers. Whether you’re a complete beginner or have studied the language before, there is a course for you. For the past two years I have been attending weekly Spanish lessons. It’s a great break from my science-based course and doesn’t take too much work. Me gusta mucho. I enjoy the seminar setting which allows for class discussion and group-work, as well as getting feedback on the work I do. Take advantage of this!

Many students worry about being too busy with work to make these kind of commitments. It’s true that a good balance should be struck  – indeed, spending three times as much time learning magic tricks than studying for your degree could indeed be problematic in the long term. Nonetheless, attending these clubs expands your comfort zone, introduces you to new friends and may even help you find your new favourite hobby.

Extracurricular activities are an important part of the university experience, and you should make an effort to fit them into your weekly timetable where you can. Try and attend new clubs as soon as you arrive so that you won’t be the only new member (although societies are welcoming all year round). If you need more information, a visit to the Guild is a good place to start!