Every year, my university hosts a Freshers’ Fair where you can find out more about different university clubs and university internship opportunities. This year the event was brought back in person after some online activity during the lockdown. It is the perfect starting point to explore what the university offers and to meet new friends and build valuable connections along the way.
In this blog post I will share the university clubs I have been and am involved in during my time at university. It is wise to get involved in as many things as you possibly can, to have some experiences to build upon when you’re constructing your resumé or attend job interviews after your degree. I try to match my needs with what I enjoy doing, that way I find clubs and university internships that work for me. Some of them were only online-based during the Covid pandemic, while others have made a comeback ever since the university opened up again. These activities help me in many different ways and they can hopefully inspire you to get involved in something yourself!
Part time job at university
When I arrived at the university in my first year I felt overwhelmed with the amount of time I had on my hands. After working full-time during my two sabbatical years, I was confused about what I was supposed to spend my time at if not attending scheduled lectures and seminars. What I didn’t realise then was that I probably should have gotten a job or university internship. For me, getting a part-time job was not only about creating an extra income for myself. It was also a way to create social connections and gain some structure in my schedule. If you dedicate a certain amount of hours to a job, you know how many hours are left for you to do school work. With that said, it does not mean that the working hours should be more than the school work hours. However, it helps to let the mind rest for a bit between study sessions. Otherwise you risk constantly stressing out about assignments and can get an extra income on top of it. Look out for roles in cafés and restaurants since these often offer flexible working hours.
University Sports Clubs
Throughout my childhood, I dedicated a lot of my time to the sport I love: basketball. When I became older, the amount of practice increased until I spent my evenings at a basketball court more or less everyday. When I graduated high school however, I broke free from the strict schedule and began exploring other activities. But the love for the sport never disappeared. When I came to the university clubs a few years later, I had no thought of applying for a team. It felt like I had left that chapter behind me. But when I met the team at a society fair I was intrigued. They seemed to have so much fun and I was inspired to join. Eventually I did and they completely changed my relationship to the sport.
Before, basketball was associated with expectations and commitments that were hard to live up to, as I was also interested in other things. In this team, however, I could decide how much time I wanted to put into it, which made it so much more fun. Sadly, our season was cut short due to the pandemic and basketball was put on hold for more than a year. When the courts opened up again, we recruited our new team. A vibrant new set of players that have become some of my best friends this year. We now hangout outside practice, both in socials and we invite each other to parties. I have never been this close to my teammates and I am so happy that I decided to join this university club. Besides basketball, I try to make time for myself in the gym. Weightlifting gives me the time alone, where I listen to my music and focus on my own progress. This is another vital part of both my mental and physical wellbeing.
University clubs to learn new skills and build friendships
Something I always ask new students is whether they have joined any university clubs available at campus. This could be a club or society surrounding a certain activity, nationality or religion. For me, they became the key component in building my social life at campus. . In my first year of university I joined the Public Speaking Society. It was my peer mentor who invited me to a session and although I found it quite intimidating, I quickly fell in love with the atmosphere it provided. It was a space where people voluntarily chose to be vulnerable in front of strangers in order to practice their speaking skills. This vulnerability and the audience’s support fascinated me. I have become a more confident and skilled speaker while finding my closest friends through this society. Societies also offer members to take on executive roles which can become the perfect addition to your resumé. You can run in society elections as a candidate for the next executive team and let the other members vote for you. This leads me to my next topic.
The Public Speaking Society became and still is a vital part of my social life in Essex. Attending sessions regularly made me not only a skilled public speaker, it also gave me friends for life. At the end of my first year I got together with some fellow students and ran for the next executive team of the society. A month later I was elected president and was given the great responsibility of leading the society in the upcoming year. Unfortunately, a few weeks later things changed drastically, as we were all sent home and campus shut down due to the pandemic. We didn’t know how we would keep the society running in the midst of this, but we were committed to try. When the new term began, we brought the society session to Zoom where we continued to host our sessions regularly. Surprisingly, people showed up and continued to attend week after week. We were relieved by the engagement and proud that we managed to keep the university club afloat. I learned to plan, organize and execute regular meetings every week. As a president, I was responsible for communicating the correct info to our members and initiating new projects while being the face outwards of our society. It was also great experience for my university internships.
University Internships and workshops
Despite the cancellation of many university internship opportunities due to the pandemic, some of them were brought online. I joined two virtual university internships through a student careers network called Bright Network. They offer virtual internships where you can apply to internships in different sectors. My favourite was the public policy internship that was arranged by the Civil Fast Stream (UK government graduate scheme). I was given a work sample to be completed at the end of summer and I learned many useful skills in how to draft a policy as an actual civil servant. There are many sectors available in their virtual experiences and it is definitely worth a look.
In late December I handed in an application to a work placement university internship. The internship was created to provide students with valuable work experience and bridge the gap between university and the labor market. I applied to a research assistant position in terrorism classification. I had taken a module the year before on that very topic and was intrigued by the job description. The application was quite straightforward and they requested me to provide the reasons why I found the position interesting. A month after handing in my application I received an email stating that they have proceeded with other applicants.
However, to my surprise they invited me to an interview in the end, since an applicant had accepted another role. I recognised the researcher and was lucky enough to have both him and another previous lecturer of mine present in the Zoom call. I went into the interview with the mindset that I would try to demonstrate my passion for the topic as much as I could. It seemed like it paid off. The other week I was accepted for the university internship and I am very excited. This shows that it is always a good idea to at least give it your best shot at things that truly interests you. This position will be an invaluable asset in my job hunt after university and it will be very rewarding to get insights into an actual researcher’s work.
This list compiled some of the university clubs and university internships I have been active in during my time at the university. There are trillions of different projects and roles to take on during your time as an undergraduate student and I hope these inspired you to discover them at your own university!
All the best,