For international students in the UK, some of the most common culture shocks include being told that “pants” does not mean what you think it means, tea without milk is the highest sin, and biscuit-dunking is almost an everyday sport. It’s easy to get homesick too — you would do anything for mama’s special homemade soup that uplifts your soul to the heavens above. Lastly, let’s not get into how the English weather can be like. Here, the sun is a rarity that is enjoyed by the Brits to its maximum extent that even fountains turn into swimming pools.
The good news is there are plenty of options to improve international student wellbeing in the UK. This includes counselling services (provided by most academic institutions) with trained professionals, volunteering (which would look stellar on your CV), taking part in sport activities, and the proliferation of many digital wellbeing apps to keep you on track.
Or, you can just join one the many student clubs and societies available here. Being part of a student club or society is not only fun, but useful. It promotes social opportunities, you get to meet new faces beyond halls and lectures, and form connections with like-minded individuals. If it’s a sports club, you get to practise an active lifestyle and stay healthy too. It also gives you a platform to find that sweet balance between your social life and studies.
Science, debating and the International Club are mainstays of most institutions — but the UK is no ordinary country to study in. Interests here run wide and diverse, as is the student club scene. There’s no need to settle for the ordinary if that’s not your cup of tea — let’s explore some of the most unique student societies in the UK you can join:
Oxford Universities Quidditch Club (OUQC)
“It’s Win-gard-dium leviosa, not Levios-a!” If you are a die-hard Harry Potter fan, like 99% of the world is, find comfort in knowing that Quidditch is an actual sport here. Well, at least at the Oxford University Quidditch Club. Not only does it exist, it is run by university students and is part of both University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University.
Quidditch, as described in the Harry Potter books, is a fast-paced, mixed-gender sport. In 2005, Vermont even held its first Quidditch match. Since then, it has grown to be played in over 30 countries across the globe, with over 30 teams currently competing in the UK. It is taken so seriously, that in 2011 they founded an official governing body for it.
The Oxford University Quidditch Club was one of the first Quidditch clubs founded in the great land of Britain. Your childhood dream of catching the golden snitch can finally come true. Let the wizard or witch within you shine.
If you ever get sad, just picture a T-rex trying to clap in your head. Are you into Jurassic Park-style adventures? The University of Bristol Students Union has their own student club called DINOSOC. For all the fossil lovers out there, this is a great way to release your inner Barnum Brown.
From running fossil-hunting trips, to having guest lectures discussing paleontology and zoology with cutting-edge research, DINOSOC also holds gatherings with extremely funny (read: punny) names, all in relation to … yes, you guessed it: dinosaurs.
You can also volunteer to go on expeditions — who knows you could one day help uncover a million-year old fossil and be part of history? DINOSOC is the only student paleontology society in the UK, so take advantage and be part of this rare community in the exploration of evolution.
The Durham University Assassin Society (DUA)
In Assassin’s Creed, there’s this saying: “Nothing is real; everything is permitted.” “We work in the darkness to serve the light,” is the oath of this revolutionary game. The Durham University Assassins Society is one of the oldest and most active Assassins Societies in the world. DUA runs at least one full-time game each term with regular social events.
And our widegame begins! pic.twitter.com/VZazw0OKGn
— DU Assassins Society (@DurhamAssassins) March 2, 2016
Video game aficionados can finally see their love for this interactive game come to life. Members are involved in hunting and killing each other — wow, violent, much?? — using an array of safe “weaponry” (like nerf guns instead of real guns for obvious reasons) across Durham, just like in the game.
Apart from bringing video games to life, DUA’s social events include bar crawls, video-game nights, and larger parties in conjunction with other societies. Getting over social anxiety and connecting with like-minded individuals should not be a problem if you are part of DUA.
20 Minute Society
Is spontaneity your jam? On toast? Being random is the aim of the 20 Minute Society by Newcastle University Students Union. This club hosts social events and activities that range from Laser Quest, to the Comedy Club, and to even taking trips abroad. As a member, all the activities will cost you … nothing, apart from the occasional drink on any social event.
The only catch is that you are sent a location when you sign up with your email, and you have 20 minutes to get to it. If you get there in time, you get to be part of amazing social events, or secure a place on their “Mystery Holiday” that have taken place across Europe.
At the end of the school year, they have a ball with a mystery location to celebrate another year at the 20 Minute Society. So much mystery, in such little time!
Brum Dine with Me (BDWM)
Are you a foodie at heart? Does eating and social gatherings sound like the perfect combo to you? The University of Birmingham, in collaboration with Birmingham City Council, Brindleyplace and the Midland Arts Centre in Birmingham created a city-wide day of events called Brum Dine With Me. This event showcased the value of research in food in society.
Their event also featured art exhibits of the University of Birmingham, practical experiments with the DNA of fruit and vegetables, interpretative dance and the chance to get interactive with the future of food. BDWM explores what humans eat everyday in a way that has never been seen before.
Remember when mommy told you to stop playing with your food? Well now it’s all hands-on-deck, play with it all you want. The BDWM is not only about food experiments, but also has major prizes to be won. Furthermore, they promote easy inner-city family farming through their urban food growing initiatives.
Not only does being part of a student society or club help you settle down in a country abroad, but it also helps push you to connect with other students, get over your social anxiety, have the encouragement to do fun activities and be a part of something close to a family.
UK societies sure sound like a fun bunch. However, we understand that not all mental health issues can be fixed by just this. If you feel like you are in a dark place, please never hesitate to contact Samaritans, available 24 hours daily.
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