Because student life is about more than just lectures…
Fancy becoming fluent in Spanish, moonlighting as a radio DJ or taking on a few matches of Quidditch?
University life provides an awful lot more besides three years of lectures. Sure, priority one will be getting your degree, but if you reach graduation day without having tried any of the non-academic things on offer, you’re going to be hit with a serious dose of FOMO.
Pick the right extra-curriculars and you might learn something amazing, develop a CV-worthy skill or build a network of new friends.
Try these for starters...
Do an internship
Come graduation day, you’re going to be rightly proud of that freshly minted degree. But if you can also leave uni with some relevant work experience, you suddenly hop up another couple of rungs on the employability ladder.
Many unis have well-established internship programmes, offering placements that fit around your term-time hours and holiday periods. So, not only are you getting paid, you're building up vital experience too.
Beth Davies, a politics student from UEA, explains how her Parliamentary and Public Policy Research Placement has helped her boost her skills. "Through my placement, I've been able to go to Parliament and watch a meeting on democratic participation. I've also written a report for a non-governmental organization on a topic of their choosing, which has given me good experience with conducting my own research - something my future employer was very interested in when interviewing me. There are definitely a lot of transferable and employable skills you can develop!”
Take up an unusual sport
It’s standard fresher behaviour to sign up for 87 societies during week one...and then never go to any of them. Dodge that trap – unis are stuffed with societies that can transform your coming three years.
Many societies are dedicated to unusual and minority sports that you’ll probably never have tried before, from American football to triathlon to Harry Potter fan-favourite Quidditch. Whichever you pick, you’ll be broadening your horizons beyond the football/gym/netball combo offered at school. Then train hard and...who knows? Maybe you’ll end up in the next Olympics.
"There are numerous benefits to taking part in sport societies, including improvements to your physical and mental health as well as enhancing your social life" explains James Raywood, Student Sport Operations Manager at UEA, "Additional research has also shown the positive impact getting involved in sports clubs has on your employability and earning potential after graduating".
Help other people
Of course, there are all kinds of non-sport societies as well, including some that connect with charitable organisations. For example, Nightline is a student support service that’s run entirely by students, while Enactus provides help for the underprivileged in local areas. Both have societies in universities across the UK. Get involved and you'll be helping other people while also developing organisational skills that can build up your CV.
Become a journalist
Student timetables are generally flexible enough to let you focus on a non-academic side project or two – perhaps even the dark arts of journalism. Getting involved with your university's student newspaper is one way; if you’re willing to put the time in you can build up a strong portfolio of editorial experience. Depending on the uni, you might find other media opportunities as well. At UEA, for instance, there’s a student TV production facility and a well-established student radio station.
Learn a language
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you can handle the extra work, you could learn a new language while taking your main degree. Many universities offer the option to take language modules, but you’ll need the discipline to study in your own time alongside all of your main degree work. Costs are generally low – and sometimes entirely free.
TSR member michiyo has found it no problem to combine language studies with a full-time degree. “Everyone I know who studies a language while doing their university course is getting at least a 2:1,” they say. “If you are willing to put the required work into it, you should be at least somewhat decent in said language by the end [of your degree].”
Go to a guest lecture
Most universities run a regular programme of guest lectures – free talks that are open for anyone to attend. You might find a topic that backs up what you’re learning in your degree course, or you could go along to something completely unrelated. Either way, these lectures are a great way to hear from experts and learn something fresh.
Plan out your career
The careers support available at uni can be priceless. Make the most of this resource and you’ll get three years of help with finding a career, enabling you to take your time and think clearly about your first steps. Careers services will help you with mentoring and advice, as well as providing help in finding part-time work to get you through uni.
Start your own business
Everyone needs a few extra quid at uni, and what better way to earn it than through your own business? Setting up on your own might seem like a pipe dream, but some unis provide support for students looking to unleash their entrepreneurial spirt. Aston University is one, offering an ‘enterprising placement’ where you set up your own business as part of your degree.
Leaving home to go to university is a big deal; leaving the country to study at a foreign uni is a step further into the unknown. But it’s a truly life-changing experience and something that’s offered as part of many university courses.
“It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” says Ben Tyrer, a languages student at Nottingham Trent University. “I went to Italy for six months and lived in a little city just outside Milan. It was a chance to be truly independent and I’d recommend it to anyone.”
Watch more videos about student life
Our vloggers are sharing their experiences of student life direct from the campus. In this video playlist, we've collected their vlogs about first year accommodation, to help you get an idea of what it's like when you first start.
This competition closes for entries at 23:59 on 31 May 2021.
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