Earlier this year myself and some fellow students opted to revive a subject-specific society that had fallen out of existence a few years previous; the RGU Life Sciences Society. Student societies, for those who aren’t aware, are run by students of the university (with support from our Student’s Union) in order to provide opportunities for other students on campus to get to know each and develop new skills.
Societies can often entail a surprisingly large amount of work and as a result, they recruit committees to help manage the workload and ensure the smooth(ish) running of the group throughout the year. In the case of the Life Sciences Society: I’m the Chair and oversee our professional membership relationships and try to help the society expand. Conveniently, this involves taking the lion’s share of the credit for doing very little of the work. Our Vice-Chair, Louise Coulthard, has a big role in organising our events and in recruiting new members. Our Treasurer, Aileen Walsh, handles all of the finances including the thousands of pounds that is turned-over by our Autumn Ball. This year there are five other members who all contribute in their own way and do a fantastic job.
Student societies and sports clubs are at the heart of most universities. They create a social atmosphere on campus, provide a sense of community for the student body and help to flesh out the university’s calendar with events and activities. However, aside from providing a substantial benefit to the university, societies are also hugely rewarding for those who take part in them.
I’m a Biomedical Science student and now in my final year of study. My course has given me the chance to learn all kinds of technical skills and research techniques that will, I hope, prove useful in my career. However, there are also skills that can only come from practice and through my involvement with the society. I have had the chance to organise an event for over 200 people in the form of the School’s Ball. I’ve had the opportunity to organise a guest speaker programme and an annual debate, to lay the foundation for traditions that will hopefully be carried on by the person who takes over next year. These organisational skills are valuable not just to employers but to me and contribute to the toolkit that I hope will help me make a success of whatever project I undertake next.
However, the most obvious and immediate reward of running a society is a social one. As I write this, Fresher’s Week at RGU is underway and the Society has organised a few events in order to welcome the university’s new science students to campus. This meant that I had the opportunity to embarrass myself at bowling last night with some existing members and new faces. Chances like this, to meet new people and make new friends, has done me a huge amount of good as a student and last night I got chatting to an existing student who had decided to come along for the first time. I had to confess to her that I didn’t know her name and once she told me I introduced myself in a conversation that went like this:
“Nice to meet you, I’m Joh-.” “Yeah, everyone knows who you are.”
She assured me that she meant it in a good way but for better or worse, it’s probably true – at least within the School that I study! Trying to engage with some of the opportunities available to students at RGU has given me a chance to meet a huge number of students, sometimes at their first-year inductions or sometimes as part of bowling nights out. Now in my fourth year of study, this has accumulated quite a lot and I usually don’t walk far on campus without getting a friendly wave from someone I’ve met as part of this, which is a very refreshing thing to have as part of your university experience: one that helps you feel at home on campus. Ultimately, this is what it’s like to run a student society, it’s an experience that helps you feel supported and comfortable as part of the university community. And one that is well worth the while should you ever get the chance!