The value of co-curricular activity

Leeds University Union

I love my job, but the best bit has to be working with our Clubs & Societies. They never fail to impress me in their commitment to students, the amazing things they do or in their desire to share their passion with others.

The University, through LUU, has more than 340 Clubs & Societies from Maths Soc, to Women’s Rugby league, from Afro-Caribbean Society to K-Pop Dance. There’s something for everyone and if there isn’t — you can set it up. For many students Clubs & Societies are what brings that real sense of belonging to their time at Leeds.

We’ve spent a lot of this term trying to support groups to still create that sense of belonging. They’ve waded through risk assessments, managed rules which massively limit what they can do and wrangled with technology so they can showcase what they are all about. Through it all the what I’ve heard from society committees is:

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without Clubs & Societies, it’s where I found my friends and where I found my home at University. So I’m going to work doubly hard to make sure this year’s Freshers get that opportunity too.

There is something very particular about sharing the same interest whether that’s Motorsport or Freestyle Dance. It’s an instant bond. It’s something to talk about that breaks that awkward first 30 seconds of meeting. It’s a shared history of singing in shows or watching Manga films. It’s the bond of getting to try something for the first time, with other people in the same position. You might not have met someone before who shares that interest or lived somewhere where you could take part in your passion.

There is also something about stepping outside your academic life and just doing something because it is fun, not required. Of being defined by something other than the degree you are taking. Doing something just because you want to. The Politics student playing Women’s Rugby, the Engineering student on the committee of Art Soc or the Ancient History student leading Surf Society.

The student leadership element, enhances the sense of belonging. This is a group run by students for students. They are tailored to their audience in a way most students won’t have experienced before. This isn’t activity put on for them by ‘grown ups’. It’s run by their peers. These aren’t small endeavours either, Kickboxing & Krav Maga has 1800 members and the committee of students run it all from weekly training to large scale competitions.

I marvel every day at the moment as the groups continue to put on activity, lobby us to be able to do more, advocate for their members. They do this because the groups mean so much to them. It’s where they found friends, housemates, allies. Where they got support after they bombed an essay, when they missed home, when they didn’t think University was for them. It’s where they belong.

This blog is written by Hannah Brian, Leeds University Union.

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