‘I spent £600 on kit to only attend one session’: Sheff students on societies and Covid

What do Sheff students really think about virtual societies?

A year into the coronavirus pandemic and almost everything we once knew has changed; societies are no exception.

Before 2020, societies were an opportunity to meet new people, have fun and sometimes even train for a sport. From the countless posters to the societies fair, if you made it through freshers without at least thinking of joining one you’re stronger than most.

Across the two Sheffield universities we have societies involving wine tasting, playing Sims, pole-dancing and many more. Being part of a society should mean having friends outside of your flat and your course, learning a new skill or just having fun.

But has this been the case for societies throughout the Covid-19 restrictions? We spoke to Sheffield students to find out.

“I spent £600 on kit to only attend one session”

Ben* is a second year Primary Education student who joined the Hallam ice hockey team in September 2020.

“The original taster session was £5 but after that they encourage you to get your own kit if you want to carry on, which costs around £600 for the skates, body armour, etc.”

Ben continued: “Due to the lockdown in November, all the planned sessions had to be cancelled and since then, there hasn’t been any online sessions to my knowledge.”

“It definitely isn’t the societies fault, but I am feeling a bit foolish now spending all that money.”

“If it wasn’t for the society I joined, I’d have dropped out”

Rhys, a Sports Coaching student at Hallam said without Hallam men’s football, he’d have dropped out of uni.

“In first and second year I suffered from depression as a result of bereavement and the coaches, committee and players kept me involved as much as possible to keep my mind off things.”

Rhys continued “Obviously, the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on sports as it can be a release for people but the football committee have done all they can to keep the group interacting.”

“We’ve done charity fundraising competitions, Zoom quizzes and wherever possible we have fit as many sessions around the restrictions as we can.”

Hallam Men’s Football team. Image credit: @HallamMensFooty on Twitter.

“I appreciate the effort, but it just isn’t the same”

Savannah*, a Biochemistry student at the University of Sheffield (UoS), is a member of the cheer team and is used to doing three sessions a week. When covid restrictions hit, meaning cheer sessions weren’t going ahead, Savannah tried a session of sailing.

“I signed up for a Sailing ‘give-it-a-go’ session even though they said it would be different to usual. It was very Covid safe with only two to a boat, wearing masks, etc.

“Normally, they do an eight-week course on the beginnings of sailing but decided against it this year and just did taster sessions instead. Each week just kept getting postponed because of the restrictions.

“The society have been running baking sessions on their socials and encouraging others to get involved but it just isn’t the same as sailing.”

“It’s good to have a catch up once in a while”

Vaia Kontou, President of the women in engineering society at the University of Sheffield, has done everything she can to keep the society going during the restrictions.

“During the first semester we were running our mentoring scheme and every Thursday we had guests from the engineering industry hold workshops over Zoom.

“We had three social events a month for everyone to catch up and since the committee hadn’t actually met in person, we had our own socials too.”

“The attendance was not as high as I’d have expected for the workshops but the social events were much better.”

“One of our members commented that ‘it is good to have a catch up once in a while’.”

Image credit: www.womeninengineering.org.uk

“More than anything it’s been a great community. It’s given me a sense of purpose”

Chloë is a Criminology student at the University of Sheffield and has been volunteering with the UniBoob Team.

“Our aim is to empower everyone to feel comfortable checking their breasts for the early signs of breast cancer.”

“This has obviously been more difficult this year as many of our usual events have been cancelled and fundraising has been a real challenge.”

Despite these challenges, Chloë described how the UniBoob team have been hosting ‘catch up with Coppafeel’ virtual coffee mornings.

“More than anything, we have a great community of volunteers who have really been there for each other through all of this. I’ve been able to feel part of a student community when I really haven’t been able to feel that elsewhere this year. It’s given a sense of purpose.”

Image credit: @shefuniboobteam on Instagram.

*Names changed for anonymity.

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