‘Join a society!’ is a phrase you’ll have probably heard before even starting at university – most likely from family and friends who have already graduated or are still attending. Even if you have not heard this before however, it is something that, when you start at university, you will find is highly encouraged by events such as Bunfight, which displays the University of Southampton’s 222 societies. My biggest regret at university is the fact that I did not join a society until the second semester of my first year. However, joining a society saved my university experience as, if I had not done so, I would not be surrounded by the amazing friends I have now, and I may have even dropped out.
Coming to university, I was already not in the best headspace, but I was determined to change this. Due to starting at university earlier, many people I knew from back home had already made new friends in their halls, so I was excited to do the same. However, what I learnt about halls is that it is very much a lucky dip. Now that I look back on it, I know that there are people, through no one’s fault, that you simply do not connect with and that is okay, as it is simply a fact of life. What made things worse was that I saw people I was close with get on with their flatmates and, if I am being honest, I was jealous of them. Despite feeling this way, I still had hope that things would change.
Bunfight finally came around and I got to see the societies the University has to offer. I went and picked up pamphlets, flyers and business cards from over 20 stalls, but I did not join one of them. For whatever reason, I just felt like the energy and determination I needed to change the headspace I was in was completely drained, so I did nothing. I love doing my history degree, but having only 7 scheduled hours a week meant that I had a lot of free time and nothing to do with it. I found myself feeling lost and not knowing what to do, as I thought I had left it too late to do anything.
By January, a few things had changed. I was lucky enough to have met someone on my degree that introduced me to their flat, and most of them became my second year, and now third year, house mates. Despite now knowing more people at the University, I still felt like I did not belong. At the end of January, I decided I was going to stop feeling sorry for myself and finally message one of the societies I had visited during Bunfight. I had done debate in both secondary school and college, so I decided that the University of Southampton Debating Union would be the perfect fit. I found their Facebook page and messaged, ‘Hello, I’m really interested in joining this society and was just wondering if I still can because it looks like a lot of fun. Thank you.‘ Although this message is a tad cringe for me to look back on now, it is the best message I have ever sent. By joining debate, I saw myself become happier and I am now the President of the society that completely changed my university experience for the better. It is also the reason I became a committee member for Wessex Scene, as it gave me the confidence to join other societies.
So, if I could give advice to anyone starting university, it would be to join a society! If you do not join one straight away like I did, then also know that it is never too late to join one. Even if you are lucky enough to make friends in halls, it is always worth making as many more as you can, as well as giving yourself a chance to find new interests or to develop ones you already have. Societies are a massive part of your university experience and are something you do not want to miss out on.