Doing a PhD can be a lonely experience, especially if one is starting at a new university, or moving to a new area. The pandemic made it especially tricky to find community when everything moved online. However, cultural societies can be a great way to find a ‘home away from home’ experience as a postgraduate student. Blogger Sola tells us more.
By Sola Browne.
When I first started at Warwick, I noticed that the majority of campus societies and activities seemed to be targeted towards undergraduate students. I attended a few events by different societies in an attempt to find a community I could relate to and connect with. However, whilst these events were interesting and very well put together, I didn’t come across any other PhD students there. I often found myself feeling a bit like the odd one out.
I also attended PhD networking events on campus which were great for meeting other PhD students. However, I still felt there was something missing. As a Black British student, African and Caribbean culture is very important to me, and at my previous university, societies centred around these cultures were where I felt I could most be myself. So, I was curious when I found out that the Warwick ACS were running postgraduate specific events. Naturally, I decided to catch up with the former ACS president, Success Ariyibi, to find out more about the postgraduate events.
What is the ACS and why is it important to you?
The ACS is a cultural society that was set up to inspire, educate and support students of African-Caribbean descent. The society also has a role in showing off aspects of the Afro-Caribbean culture that other ethnic groups may not have seen before. It’s a mission that is close to my heart; I’ve always felt a personal remit to further the acceptance of my community, through taking on leadership roles. It’s even more important following the conversations we’ve all had around race relations in the last two years.
Why should Warwick students join ACS and is there a place for postgraduate students within the society?
If you want to make friends, feel a sense of community or add some vibrancy to your university experience, ACS is definitely the place for you! Postgraduate students are more than welcome – I’d say our membership would be incomplete without them! We have a range of cultural and all-round events every year, from our flagship musical production ‘Afrofest’, to our annual careers conference, Sports Day and so much more. I find that postgraduate students are even more appreciative of the events we put on.
What postgraduate events did you run with ACS and how did they go?
In 2021/22, we ran: a meet and greet (with free pizza and quizzes), a film night and a dinner (we went to Las Iguanas in Coventry). Based on the feedback we received, it’s fair to say the events went down really well. After the COVID-induced disruption of last year, I think postgraduates were just relieved to have spaces where they could unapologetically be themselves, make new connections, as well as celebrate their cultures and learn about new ones.
Whose idea was it to run ACS events specifically for postgraduate students?
It was actually my idea! In the midst of all the detailed planning that the exec and I were carrying out, I thought it was really pertinent that we were inclusive of all age ranges within the society. Historically, the ACS at Warwick has been typically geared towards first-year students; they are deemed to have the fewest commitments and the most enthusiasm. I wanted to dispel this notion as best I could. We made a WhatsApp chat for all postgraduates interested, and from there we never looked back once. One postgraduate student who had been at Warwick since his undergraduate days told me that this is the first year of postgraduate events since he joined, well over a decade. Looking back further, it’s possible that 21/22 was the first time Warwick ACS have had events on for postgraduates – this is incredibly touching for me personally.
I sincerely hope this is the start of a legacy that can continue on long after ACS 21/22 have graduated, and perhaps even be a factor as to why postgraduates wish to come and study at Warwick.
What advice would you give to the new ACS 2022/23 exec about running postgraduate events?
Treat the postgraduate students like normal people, because that’s what they are! Most things that the undergraduate students enjoy, the postgrads enjoy also, so don’t be hesitant to put a range of events on. Communication with them is important, the fact there’s less of them is an asset – you’re more likely to get the chance to cater for the needs of everyone.
The ACS society run a range of events that PhD students may be interested in, from fun and relaxing movie or dinner nights to, informative events about mental health or how to get onto the property ladder. There are many ways to find community on campus, for those days when you need a break from all your hard work.
If you’re interested in joining a society, take a look at the full list on the SU website.
What communities are you part of at Warwick? Let us know in the comments below, by tweeting us @researchex or by emailing us at email@example.com
Image credits: Warwick ACS