Freshers: go wild when it comes to joining student societies

Freshers Week gives you the chance to join a whole host of weird and wonderful societies. Whether it's learning a new skill or keeping an old one alive, there is something to cater to every taste.

Students enrolling at the University of Sheffield might have worried they wouldn't be able to indulge their passion for medieval re-enactments. Fear not.

"Very few people have done it before they come to uni," says Tom Watson, outgoing president of Sheffield's medieval re-enactment society. "But a lot of people had toy swords as a kid. So I just suggest to people that they try it out."

The group meets every week to make medieval kit and practice sword-fighting, in preparation for re-enactment events across the country, including famous old battles like Bosworth.

"There are a few skirmishes and then one side starts dying quite dramatically. You've just got to make it look entertaining for the audience," Watson says.

You won't be able to miss them during the society freshers' fair. "We do tend to stand out quite a lot. A few people come in full suits of armour, and we bring weaponry."

Watson has a key selling point for freshers thinking about joining. "In how many other societies can you shoot longbows?"

The news is not so good for fresher fans of the undead. The future of Kent University's zombie apocalypse society is up in the air after the university vetoed its plans to hold a mass campus-wide game of "humans v zombies" (basically tag with a gory twist), citing health and safety concerns.

"With this plan gone, our main objective was shattered," mourns Kieran Poll from the group.

The dramatic fresher in the north-east might like to try the Gilbert and Sullivan society at Newcastle. The group is the oldest society at the university – formed in 1952 – and performs the works of the Victorian theatrical duo at two major shows each year.

Catt Symonds-Thompson, 23, the society's publicity officer, says it keeps things much more informal during freshers week. It holds a half-hour mock rehearsal for new students to get an idea of what it's all about. "Then we just take them all to the pub afterwards," she says. "We are weird, but fun."

She says only about 20% of recruits have any sort of performance background. "People just think there was that episode of The Simpsons where they did those Gilbert and Sullivan songs, and that looked quite fun."

She is a big advocate of freshers getting involved with societies as soon as they can. "It's just like hanging out with your friends, but less expensive."

For freshers who prefer winding down at the end of a long uni day with a nostalgic dose of sci-fi, then Sussex's USS Enterprise society may be just the ticket.

The group, currently only 10 strong since forming in January, has weekly screenings of past Star Trek episodes and films. It is looking for new members this year to join them in activities further afield.

"There's a couple of conventions coming up this year and we'll be going dressed up," says current member Francis Jans, 21, who recently bought his first Trekkie costume. "A lot of the actors will be there and there will be plenty of autograph-getting."

Would-be politicians can join one of many model United Nations groups. These simulate UN committees and debates. Students from universities from across the world take on the role of each of the countries.

"You end up having friends from Australia to Japan," says Naa Acquah, 21, from the Manchester group. It has inspired her to take on an MA in international relations, to prepare her for her ambition to work at the real UN. "I probably cared about the model UN more than my actual degree."

Many students may be seeking a quiet respite from the non-stop partying of first year. They might think about joining the green-fingered students of Cardiff's allotment society, who help local residents grow fruit and veg.

Peter Nyby, 24, says that joining is good for a fresher's diet - and bank balance. "You get so much veg so you save a bit, and you can get some nice fresh produce."

He joined up as a welcome escape from student stress. "I was sick of just studying at the university, reading and writing all day."

Emily Gould, 21, the vice-president of the Exmoor pony trekking society from Edinburgh, agrees. "When you're working really hard, it's nice to get out of the city a little."

At a time when there is so much pressure to fit in, students in these societies are unanimous that there is nothing wrong with doing something a trifle eccentric at university. "What is wrong with quirky?" says Watson.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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