So, no doubt you’ve settled into your new abode and met a few new friends or been reunited with others. As many fresher’s weeks have drawn to a close and lessons are now in swing, there’s no doubt you’ve been around the fairs and the student union and been given flyer after flyer after sign up sheet, suggesting you join this and that.
If you feel a little in over your head or are beginning to question if you should have really signed up for every table you visited then don’t panic. Thankfully most of the sheets at fresher’s fairs are mostly there to gather interest and you usually don’t commit to joining a society until you’ve either paid ‘subs’ or been to the first few meetings.
Let’s break some of these groups down to get a better idea and hopefully demystify some of the assumptions.
Now bearing in mind colleges and universities around the world will operate slightly differently (sometimes inside a country itself you can have different institutions with different governance and representation), so this guide won’t fit every place perfectly. For that reason I’ve missed out specific lifestyles (such as Greek Life) and tried to cater generically to both Student Unions, Guilds and organisations alike. For the sake of translation, most student organised groups will be referred to as “societies” and teaching rooms as “labs” or “spaces” and job roles described as generically as possible.
VIP Club Nights and Dining Discounts
The offers you’ll have received here are usually vouchers for drinks deals and discounted entry to dedicated student nights. Some clubs occasionally give away or offer discounted VIP subscription to encourage you to visit them more. There’s never any commitment to do this of course and sometimes the more you connect with the better chance you’ll have of a cheap night out.
As for food discount codes and cards, it’s always worth a quick read thorough the terms and conditions, particularly when it comes to deals. Sadly most places won’t let you apply for discounts alongside deals (e.g: For Domino’s Pizza, you can either have x% off with your discount code OR you can have a deal such as ‘Two for Tuesday’ or a seasonal offer, not both), but again shop around the different takeaways to work out who will give you the most nosh for your dosh.
General Clubs & Societies
These are great little groups (sometimes known informally in their short form as as ‘socs’) often formed by students for students (with the occasional help from staff if it’s related to a subject or department), often free or for a very low joining fee. The scope of societies is as large as anyone’s imagination (within lawful reason) from chocolate to history to gaming to geocaching.
If you missed the sign up at fresher’s fair, there’s almost always an opportunity to join at a later date. Simply turn up at a meeting night or contact either a society member or even your student activities co-ordinator (if you have a specific one) and likewise if you wish to leave, give one of the above the courtesy of some notice rather than just not turning up, or you may keep hearing from them regarding events and subscription fees.
If you society doesn’t exist yet, why not start it yourself? It’s usually just a word with a student activities co-ordinator, a few signatures from your initial members, a decision on if your society will be a free and if so how you will fund activities) or subscription based one, submission of the paperwork to have it ratified by your SU/Guild council or guild to make it a formally approved and supported society and an initial general meeting (which becomes an annual requirement) in which you democratically elect a president (if not already agreed), a secretary and a treasurer. How formally you wish to enforce these rules in your society is up to you during each year in office (within many societies the title is just a formality), however bear in mind if the co-ordinator needs to enquire on something for whatever reason, these elected members will be the ones contacted first. Once you’re ratified, you’re away and the rest is up to you and your members to organise (although your guild or union will always be there to help should you need any advice or basic support on matter such as fund-raising, locations or issues with members).
If your society is of an academic nature, it’s worth speaking to your relevant department when you set it up. Whilst as non-students they may not be allowed to run the society itself, they may be able to provide support on a voluntary basis or allow you to use equipment or a teaching space in free hours (for instance, a Science Club may let you have supervised access to lab equipment or a Drama society have access to a performance space). If you have the funds you may be able to book spaces both on and off campus to host events (e.g: a play or a special night function) or seek sponsorship to get it for a discount/free provided you promote their services.
Whilst societies are often pretty relaxed, there may be some ground rules you may have to follow, particularly if it’s not a free membership. The president does have the right to exercise these within reason, so please respect them if you want to reap the benefits and memories of being in a society.
The Athletic Union and Sports Teams
Most universities will separate sporting activities into their own sub division known as the Athletic Union or AU (though not all Student Unions or Guilds have this). Alternatively the University themselves may manage the sports teams. Much like at school these aren’t strictly as formal as the ‘real world’ sports clubs, but unlike student societies will expect a degree of commitment, particularly if you’re competing in a university league or competition).
Once you’ve registered your initial interest at Fresher’s Fair, you’ll be invited to ‘try out’ for your chosen sport(s). If you meet the criteria for a position you’ll be invited to join the team. For larger universities, there may also be reserve teams, so if you make the grade but somebody else go there first too, don’t despair! Unlike a football table, University team are often fairly equal in ranking and are just as responsible to fighting for the competition and league titles.
Sports clubs are usually funded through sponsorship, either by business who will often be printed on your uniforms or by bars, pubs, taverns and clubs whom you’ll be expected as team entity (not necessarily as individuals) to visit on various nights out (sometimes on a dedicated ‘AU Night’ or ‘Socials’).
In addition to your match days, practice sessions and evening socials there’s often a chance to go ‘on tour’. This in effect is an organised semi-holiday/semi-sports week with your teams and other teams from your campus to join other university teams in a predetermined country (which changes each year at the discretion of the tour company organisers) and often has activities geared towards friendly inter-campus and inter group activities.
As the heading suggests, the University also like to get involved at the fair too, offering opportunities to students to help them out in addition to participating in the student union. This can be both voluntary and paid job roles for both immediate start and information on positions for the future.
Opportunities can involve outreach work for supporting the staff on open and applicant days & to visits to colleges and sixth forms, to becoming a university ambassador who may be part of the above in addition to further internal and public events – representing the face of the university. There’s also opportunities to support different departments such as lab assistants for students in higher years or performance technicians and front of house staff for theatrical, musical and conferencing events.
Outside of academic roles, there’s also opportunities in the community such as wardens for student accommodation (be it a dorm/room advisor, part-time and live in residential wardens, fire safety officers or accommodation reps) which can allow both the mix of some or all of the following: reliving the fresher student life again, having responsibilities to safety or accommodation matters (all of which look great on CV and Resumé type documents) or generally just the warm feeling that you’ve made newcomers to the adult world feel welcome and supported as I’m sure you hopefully would have felt when you first started university. If you’re a fresher yourself. I wouldn’t recommend these roles for immediate start (and often it’s quite hard to get them for your current year as they usually start just before you arrive) and would wait until the second year when you will have got your head around how your university works.
Hopefully this has provided some insight to the life around uni outside of lesson time and as always I’m keen to hear your additions and comments in the comment box below if you have any.
Thanks for reading and hope the start to your respective years is going well.
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