Students should tap into the social side of college life

John O Donoghue

Education means more than just academic learning, it’s about interacting and socialising with other students, which in turn relieves the pressures of being buried beneath a pile of books all year round. To quote a very appropriate article from David Mitchell to back this statement up “Three to Four years spent away from home, slightly studying but mainly making friends and mistakes, and working out new philosophies of life at 2am with the help of a wine box, is a time-honoured way of preparing young people for life.” Some of the greatest memories students have of their time in College are of their involvement in Societies and attending Societies events and not, to any great surprise, the 9am lecture on a Thursday morning after a night out.

Human beings have always functioned in groups. Behavioural expectations within a group are defined by the culture; norms and roles are established over time, usually in response to needs and challenges of the environment. Tradition and practice strengthen these expectations, religion sanctifies them, and law codifies them. Institutions develop to enforce them. These are all necessary functional responses to the need for a group to operate efficiently. Societies are another form of Human groups, where like-minded students can meet and socialise without the pressure of thinking; “I don’t belong here”, or “I don’t fit in” which are usually thoughts developed at secondary school level. The diversity of UCC Societies means practically every taste is catered for across all disciplines, meaning that nearly every student can feel like they belong to a group and as a result satisfying the basic Human urge to function as a group

Facilities and Departments have associated academic Societies who cater for their particular students but there also societies that provide interest for people for everything from debating to making tea. And this year there are more societies than ever before. But societies are not just about making sure everyone feels included in the transition to University life, they also provide the majority of entertainment and events to UCC. They also bring an enormous amount of revenue into the local economy around Cork City and County, which of course keeps Cork Inc. thriving as a bustling city with an incredible nightlife.

It’s only two weeks into term and already there have been three mystery tours, various themed nights out and Table Quizzes along with a Beach Party or two. Ball season hasn’t even started yet, and when it does hotels around cork will be jumping over themselves to offer students the night of their lives. The crippling Irish hotel industry is hanging onto its pride by the tips of its fingers in the wake of collapsing tourist figures and smaller profit margins. Formal Balls are one of the largest money making events a hotel can run, especially when you look at the Commerce or Science Balls which have around a thousand attendees. Societies therefore hold the upper hand and should deal with businesses around cork as such, hopefully getting better deals on a wide variety of events.

Joining Societies therefore helps develop an ability to negotiate deals amongst other things including public speaking and debating. As everyone is aware in a recession jobs aren’t really in a plentiful supply, and adding societies related things to your CV can give you the upper hand in an interview situation. The Societies Guild Executive have recently made it even easier to join societies by adding a “Join a Society” button on the Societies section of collegeroad.ie, which signs a given email address up to the mailing list for a chosen society.

So getting involved has never been easier, and you never know you might even have a little fun. Just to conclude I’ll finish with another David Mitchell quote “university isn’t about what you learn on the course, it’s about how that learning, how living and studying somewhere new, changes the way you think and who you are. Instead of forcing kids to make binding career choices at 17, higher education is supposed to give students who would benefit from further academic development a bit of space in which to find themselves” And in my opinion that space is Societies.

John O Donoghue is Media and Membership Development Officer with UCC Societies Guild. See www.uccsocieties.ie.

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