There are many opportunities for extracurricular activities here at Warwick, but research students might initially think they don’t have time to take advantage of them. Amy gives a rundown of points to consider when choosing a society as a researcher, showing that getting involved in new activities can fit into a busy schedule…
Life as a research student can be busy. With long hours of work and other commitments, it’s obvious why for some of us, getting involved in university societies is low down on our list of priorities. However, I’ve found that getting stuck into a society here at Warwick needn’t be a chore, and can be an enjoyable experience that can enrich our time as researchers.
First and foremost, societies are a great way to meet people outside your immediate social circle or the people you work by on an everyday basis. Contrary to popular belief, we often don’t want to talk about our research all the time, and because societies bring together people from all backgrounds and interests, they can bring a welcome break to the discussion of your work with your research supervisor!
Research can often be an isolating experience, with only seeing a handful of people and your supervisor on a regular basis. We can also get so focused on the main task at hand that we forget our other interests. Societies are the perfect opportunity to rediscover old hobbies you’ve enjoyed in the past, or find something new that you’re passionate about.
Not only this, but it is well documented that exercising your brain (or your body) with a new skill such as a hobby or sport is good for you. Doing something that benefits your health can only be a good thing for improving your research too. By taking a break from work to do something new and exciting you will come back to your research refreshed, and you never know, increasing the variety of your day may even lead to an increase in creativity and success with your research!
So, you’re thinking about joining a society – great! But what’s next? The actual process of joining societies is very simple and instructions can be found on the SU website. Postgraduate students even get a reduced societies federation fee, which needs to be bought from the SU before you can join a society. We have over 250 societies here at Warwick, along with a whole host of sports clubs, so there’s bound to be something for everyone. However, despite the obvious benefits of getting involved with Warwick’s societies, and our best intentions, it’s often easier said than done for research students to get involved.
Among other reasons, society events can often be held at times that are inaccessible to those of us with set working hours, or be held in the evenings when we’re tired after a long day of work! This comes down to many society events being aimed at undergraduates, who probably have more time to dedicate to extracurricular activities. However, there are ways around this.
Firstly, be realistic. If you have limited time to dedicate to societies, as many of us do, don’t over face yourself with loads of society events. Be honest with yourself about how much time you can spare for a new activity, and bear this in mind when looking at societies. For example, if you know you can’t leave Wednesday afternoons and early mornings free for intense sports training, then perhaps don’t try out for a competitive sports team! However, said sports teams may run more casual sessions where you can turn up and play when you’re able to, without the pressure of having to come every single week.
Personally, I am involved in The Boar, the University’s student newspaper, which is definitely a good society for research students to join. Although I’ll admit that I’m biased, the newspaper allows you to improve your writing and communication skills with no set obligation – you can write as many or as few articles as you like – along with some inclusive socials. That being said, if there is an activity you want to try or a social you want to go to that clashes with your working hours, it’s always worth checking with your supervisor that it’s okay for you to take a bit of time out. Often they can be very accommodating – at the end of the day, they want you to enjoy your time at Warwick!
While of course, researchers can join any society they choose, there are some societies out there who specifically target mature students, postgraduate students and researchers, and it’s always nice to see societies that made the effort to advertise to more than just freshers and other undergraduates. These societies, (subject societies, and other clubs such as climbing and mountaineering to name a few) are very welcoming, with socials taking place after working hours or at the weekends, and sometimes only for postgrads/researchers rather than undergraduates. It’s always nice to socialise with people who understand the demands of research in a casual setting. But, even if the society doesn’t make a special point about being accessible to postgrads, you can always email ahead explaining you’re a research student and enquire about socials you’d be interested in as a researcher or times that would work best for you.
So, joining a society as a research student doesn’t need to be daunting, and there is definitely an activity for everyone to try out. Prioritise what’s best for you, and you’ll be bound to find a society that fits in with your schedule. Check the SU website or specific society pages for more information, and make the most of your time at Warwick!
Do you have experience of being involved in a society alongside your research and want to share any of your advice? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Amy Kynman earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Warwick in 2018. She is currently working towards a Masters by Research in chemistry, also at the University of Warwick. Her research focusses on the chemical reactivity of rhodium complexes, with the aim of utilising them for carbon-carbon bond forming reaction. Alongside her studies, she is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the University of Warwick’s student newspaper The Boar and aims to eventually undertake a PhD in organometallic chemistry.