Sustaining Freshers’ Fair Zeal

Eleanor Purdon, on making the leap from signing up to getting involved in an ethical society

How many of you signed up to at least one society at the Freshers’ Fair this year? Three years into my degree and I still felt the need to sign my name up to yet more societies to which, to be totally honest, I know I will never get involved with. There’s something about Freshers’ week, and the way it’s at the start of a new year with good intentions, that makes you want to start something new.

To be fair, I have got involved in one new society: the newly branded “Durham University International Development Society”, or “DevSoc” to those in the know. You may well have missed out on the “Ethical Societies” section in the Kingsgate Bar, a million miles from the free pizzas, the keychains and the Loveshack t-shirts. So, although DevSoc events have attracted considerable crowds, it’s perhaps no wonder that ethical society members are reporting a severe lack of active interest or awareness from other students.

The Importance of getting involved in a society

So just how important is it to get involved with the “extra-curricular” activities at University? I think a Dad at a recent 21st party summed it up pretty well: “ If you leave Uni without a degree then you’ve failed.  If you leave Uni with nothing but a degree then you’ve really failed”. An exaggeration perhaps, but nonetheless, it mimics the cries of the recruitment teams from many of the big internship and graduate schemes.

Sadly it’s not even enough to have just signed up to one of these societies. You really need to have gained some pretty in-depth experience of a society, and made a personal contribution, in order to give even vaguely impressive answers to the searching application questions. It seems that the idea of “Corporate Citizenship” is perhaps being joined by the expectation of “Student Citizenship”. Accordingly, it might just be worth taking a second look at that email about upcoming events and to start manoeuvering yourself into the running for the place on an exec.

Reasons to join Dev Soc

For the sporty or those with a wish to get hold of the prized purple Uni Stash, sports teams are certainly the way to go. For those of us less blessed with sporting talent, or lucky enough to be multi-talented, then why not consider joining an ethical society?  Not only can this prove to be an interesting extra for your free-time (and frankly, even with a 9-6 lecture schedule every weekday, there’s still a good two full days and 5 evenings to fill up) the inspiration and examples from discussions and debates can certainly boost essay grades, and you might just seem that little bit more interesting as a person, or even a little more ‘worthy’.

If you look hard enough, there are probably a multitude of reasons to get more involved. Even speaking to one new DevSoc member who initially said, of his attendance at a DevSoc social, “I think possibly less thought went into me turning up to the pub on a Friday than you might hope”, it emerged that he was keen to utilise his engineering skills, in an exciting DevSoc Banana Syrup initiative in Uganda, and to engage with some of the contemporary development issues before embarking on a career in Development.

So now for the real plug: DevSoc is your way forward!  Not only do you get to hear from renowned external speakers, Durham itself is full of such interesting and intelligent people that we also get together for cosy pub-chats. This means you can share ideas and questions without the geeky faux-pas element that comes with being “that person” who dares asks a question in a lecture.

These events are only the tip of the iceberg, though. DevSoc’s other winning feature is that it acts as a platform for those who want to run development projects abroad. Unlike other volunteering societies, DevSoc projects are very much student-run, one off missions, and those who have been involved rave about them. Two members have even opted to stay out in Uganda to carry on their projects started this summer.

Of course, not everyone can fit these sorts of things in, but you can always follow DevSoc on twitter for some thought-provoking tweets (if not only to hunt out my recent tweet about “The Golden Poo Awards”). Intrigued?

Check out @DurhamUniDevSoc on twitter.

Also see our Facebook Page.

Visit our website.

And, for a wider browse, take a look at the extensive societies’ list.