Given the amount of essays that our tutors like to cram into the infamously short Oxford terms, you might be surprised to learn that Oxford students have any time to do anything vaguely in the realm of the extracurricular.
In fact, the range of different activities that students can and do get involved in, and the time commitment that accompanies some of these, is really quite astounding. Just amongst the seven people that I live with, there is involvement with political societies, sports clubs, religious societies, choirs and orchestras.
There are also the slightly more niche pastimes, including the likes of alternative ice hockey, which is held between the hours of midnight and 3am – confirming my suspicions that many only manage to fit in extracurricular activities at the expense of sleep.
I sometimes find it quite a balancing act to do my tutorial work around the various societies I get involved in, but this pales into insignificance when compared with the 13 sessions of training a week undertaken by two of my sportier flatmates – being on the 1st team for any sport at Oxford qualifies you to be a ‘blue’, a significant title which requires a significant amount of effort to hold on to.
The first time that you encounter the wealth of extracurricular opportunities as a new student is at the Freshers’ Fair. This can be quite overwhelming and it is fairly standard practice to sign up for at least 10 societies during Freshers’ Week whose activities you have no intention of pursuing.
I know of many second and third year students, myself included, who still receive emails from a number of slightly bizarre societies which we all spontaneously signed up to (I should really get round to removing myself from the mailing lists for the Judo and Harry Potter societies…).
One thing which students’ find particularly rewarding, and as a double bonus also works as great CV material, is applying for a position of responsibility on one of the committees.
I am the newly-elected social secretary of OUSBMS (the Oxford University Biomedical Sciences Society) and so far my main responsibility has been organising a Megabop (this is fundamentally a drunken fancy dress party) for the undergraduate Medics and Biomedical Scientists.
I like to think of this as being an impressive achievement, but it mainly involved dressing up as an 80s fitness instructor and handing out Jagerbombs outside one of the clubs.
Whilst my responsibilities as social sec. may seem rather frivolous, the other positions on the committee have to deal with slightly more serious issues, such as organising talks from renowned scientists for the society’s members and connecting current students with alumni.
But regardless of what role you have (and how seriously you take it), getting involved with clubs and societies is a key part of the experience of being at Oxford – and definitely provides a nice respite from work every once in a while!