Back in the States, there’s one aspect of high school and college that people seem to prize most of all: extracurricular activities. Be it sports, honor societies, clubs, performance groups, or community service, American academic institutions send a very clear message that they expect you to be busy at all times. Is this a uniquely American view, or would this obsession with being busy remain prevalent when I traveled abroad? What sorts of clubs and activities are available to students at Oxford? Would I be able to participate in them as a visiting student? These are some of the questions I’ll be answering in today’s installment of Holly Goes Abroad.
In the beginning of Michaelmas term, all freshers (and visiting students!) are invited to visit the university-wide activities fair to explore what societies (what they call “clubs” here), organizations, and student campaigns Oxford has to offer. Like most third year college students, I’ve gone to my fair share of activities fairs in the past and thought that this would be no different.
I stand corrected.
The Oxford University activities fair was ENORMOUS. We wound our way through the Exam Schools for hours, simultaneously overwhelmed and excited by the plethora of options before us. They’re not joking when they say they have a society for nearly everything. There’s a society for every academic subject. Every sport. Spelunking in caves. Volunteering in nearby public schools. Tea drinking. Board game playing. Gushing over Harry Potter, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, and virtually any other fandom you could think of. The list goes on and on and on and on, and after joining email lists for more societies than we could ever feasibly attend in a week, we finally made it out the other end.
The point of the activities fair is to expose you to everything the university has and then allow you to weed out what you really enjoy and what you’re not quite interested in anymore in the following weeks. Now that I’ve been here for more than an entire term, I’ve finally narrowed down my list to just a few commitments.
VSP Representative on the Mansfield JCR Bench
I’ve been involved in the Student Government Association at my college back in the States ever since I was a freshman, so I was ecstatic to learn that the Mansfield JCR Bench (the SGA equivalent) has a position for representing the interests and voices of visiting students at the college each year. Determined to take on this exciting position, I campaigned and was successfully elected last term (thanks, friends!). It’s fascinating seeing how other colleges around the world operate their student government systems, especially because there are so many layers to the Oxford JCRs. Not only must they take the views of their specific college into consideration, but there’s also a larger tier that looks after the entire university as a whole. I can’t wait to continue becoming even more involved in this group as the year goes on!
Yes, that’s right: I play sports now?! To be fair, the Mansfield/Merton Football Team is incredibly relaxed and no exorbitant amount of playing experience is necessary. I had never played soccer before, but my brother has played since he was much younger so I’ve watched countless games over the past decade or so. Because I’m awful on the field, I’ve been assigned to the position of goalkeeper. As you can imagine, it’s as nerve-wracking as it sounds. However, I really love the feeling of being part of a team and working towards a common goal. Fingers crossed that this season goes well!
I’m also a loyal member of the film club back at Wheaton, so when I learned that Mansfield has a film society that meets on a weekly basis I immediately knew that I had to attend. It’s such a great way to spend Monday nights– relaxing with friends, eating snacks, and watching movies I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten a chance to watch.
As much a I deeply enjoy participating in a lot of extracurricular activities, being here has taught me something important: it can be equally as enjoyable and worthwhile to take some time for yourself. Back home it often felt as though extracurricular activities should be prioritized over academics, especially in high school when students are trying to build “strong” college applications. Perhaps it is simply because I’m in the unique position of only being here for a year abroad, but I feel so much less pressure to be constantly busy with extra clubs, meetings, and other activities. And it feels incredible.
Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!
What are your favorite extracurricular activities? Do you ever feel pressure to be constantly busy? Let me know in the comments section below!