What you do in between lectures and studying can make a big difference to what you get out of your time as a student. Socialising with your friends is important, for one, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally testing the ratio of sofa cushions to minutes spent napping happily.
Uni offers many other opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities. Finding something you enjoy and getting stuck in has lots of benefits – here are just a few of them...
1 - People power
One big advantage of doing something like joining a society, volunteering or signing up for a sports team is that you'll meet people. Because you're all interested in the same activity there's a good chance you'll encounter some like-minded souls and widen your social network, which is always a good thing. Plus, the more people you meet as a student the more chances you have to broaden your horizons, challenge yourself and your views and – just as important – make some friends for life.
2 - Learn new things
The range of activities that are available for students at most unis is staggering, so your biggest issue is choice; which is a pretty pleasant problem to have.
If you fancy carrying on with an existing sport or trying a new one, uni is the place to do it. You get the chance to compete against other unis, keep fit, feel part of a team and have the opportunity to learn a lot about teamwork and leadership. So if Ultimate Frisbee, fencing or yoga is the thing you've always wanted to try, there's never a better time than uni.
If that all sounds a bit tiring, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of other options, from music or drama societies to chess, gaming and debating clubs. There's even a Harry Potter and Gin society out there – what's not to like?
You can also get involved in the local community and beyond by offering your services as a volunteer. Depending on where you are, you could help care for a nearby green space, offer time to help people with learning difficulties, work with animals – there's a lot out there.
3 - We could be HEARoes
All of these things will benefit you while you're at uni, but they might also benefit your future life, so it's a good idea to keep track of them. That's where a Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) can be really useful.
Your HEAR records your extra-curricular achievements as well as your academic ones. So you can use it to set goals and track your progress, as well put CVs together, apply for work experience or prep for an interview. It can even give employers evidence of your skills and experience.
4 - Out and about
Uni is a safe, supportive environment in which you can find out more about the LGBT community and your place within it. That might mean simply joining a society and going to social events; or it might mean taking the lead in organising a Pride event. You'll learn more about yourself and gain valuable experience for life, and for your HEAR. (NB: Not all unis currently offer the HEAR – you can check this list of HEAR unis.)
But don't worry - when it's time to leave uni your HEAR won't disclose anything about you that you don't want to share. Most organisations are, of course, open and supportive - but if you would rather talk to new employers and colleagues about it in person, for example, your uni achievements in this area can be hidden until you choose to share them. It's all part of the new #HEARmeOUT campaign, which you can find out more about here.
There’s also a blog post you can read from two recent graduates who were actively involved with LGBT communities at uni and who have been recognised for their personal contribution and achievements.
5 - Develop skills for the life ahead
In the end, the work you put in to your extra-curricular activities can shape the person you become just as much as the work you put in to your studies. You'll have memorable experiences (some a bit hazy if you do join the Harry Potter Gin Soc), but you'll also develop skills for life. Captaining the team will teach you about leadership; volunteering can help your communication skills and confidence; yoga will almost certainly help you stay calm (and a bit bendy).
Whatever activities you do, harness your HEAR and you can turn them to your advantage– once you graduate it shows where you started and what you've done to become the skilled, rounded, highly employable person you are. And why you know so much about Hogwarts. So get out there, explore, and enjoy!