Hello everyone! I am Mya (Emerald) from Myanmar. I am an international postgraduate student, pursuing MA in Creative Writing. Two weeks ago, I went to a birthday party where one of my friends asked me, “Emerald, how do you know everyone?” Of course, I don’t know everyone. But I smiled, and answered, “Societies?” And, here I am… to tell you all about it!

It goes without saying that going to university does not always limit you to just study in your room, excel in your field, and then graduate and go your separate ways. Don’t we also crave connection? Be it classmates, course mates, flat mates or simply strangers you encounter in your amazing journey of life…

Lucky for you, during your journey of higher education, the University of Exeter offers you a wide range of over 250 societies under the Students’ Guild.

Welcome Week in the Forum building

Societies at the University of Exeter

The Students’ Guild societies are split into different categories: Academic and course related, Employability, Faith/Worldview, Charity and Fundraising, Fitness, Hobbies and Interests, International, Creative, Cultural, Dance, Media, Medical, Music, Outdoor and Travel, Political and Theatre and Performance, and even Games! Which means there is definitely something for everyone! Feel free to research all the Exeter societies based on your existing hobbies and interests. To read more of their aims, social media pages and events on the Students’ Guild page, here is the link for you:

Exeter Students Guild (exeterguild.com)

The best part is if you feel like there should be a society at Exeter that doesn’t yet exist, you can apply to found a new society! Any student from any year can found a new society, by applying to the Students’ Guild with a minimum of three committee members. That’s what my Burmese friends did. We now have our own cultural society, namely, Burmese Society Exeter, where we hold potluck (where everyone brings a different dish to a meal) and social gathering events to bring more people together introducing our culture.

Societies are a great way to meet people and make new friends

I am a postgraduate student which means I am only here for a year. My fellow Chevening scholars would often tease me that I am taking the ”Networking” part literally (We had to write four essays as part of the scholarship application: Leadership, Networking, Study in the UK, and Career plan). It’s true, as I decided to make use of my time while I am here which, to be honest, is a very short period of time.

Which Society to join?

International Student Welcome session during Welcome Week

I was fascinated by the Students’ Guild society page even before coming here. I couldn’t decide which society to join. However, during Freshers’ Week (known as Welcome Week), at the “International Student Welcome” seminar, I learnt that we can join as many societies as we want. The speaker of that day, Ms Sue O’Hara, advised that generally, students should think of joining three societies;

  • one society that is related to your interest of studies or your career,
  • one society that reminds you of home or something that would soothe your wellbeing, and
  • the last one is something you would never think you would ever do in life, which means something fun or out of your comfort zone.

I think that’s why I joined taster sessions of Ceilidh dance. I had never been a dancer (dancing alone in my bedroom doesn’t count!) It was during Welcome Week, where we still had all the time in the world without having to worry about deadlines. So, I danced my way through my first few chapters of University.

Ceilidh Dance Taster

When to join Societies?

It’s very easy to find societies during Welcome Week. You don’t even have to search for anything because they find you. I still have a stack of colourful pamphlets offered by various societies on my shelf. Through information on handouts and on social media, and words of strangers I befriended at the Forum, I went to the taster sessions of Ceilidh, Beats and Bass, Exe Uni Swing, and Creative Writing Society. As a writer, I find it helpful to develop ideas according to the prompts during tasters of the Creative Writing Society. Plus, every society has its own Instagram account where you can see what they have been up to. If you don’t feel like googling, you can click the links from Instagram. They will direct you to where you can buy memberships, join tasters, or simply book upcoming events.

Beats and Bass Taster

If you feel like you are unsure about which society to join, it’s okay! Year-round taster sessions are there for this reason. You can always try them out and see what’s right for you. You just have to look up the dates and put yourself out there to meet new people or to try new activities. What I have learnt from those sessions is that almost everyone is a beginner… be it a dancing class or volunteering. And everyone’s just as excited as you. They would not remember your name or what mistakes you did… nor would you remember the names of the people you have just met. That’s why you would exchange your contacts or social media accounts. Who knows – one of them might end up as your friend! I was also a beginner when I started out swing dancing. Well, I am still a beginner but I can now dance the moves of Lindy Hop.

Exe Uni Swing

That’s what I did anyway. So far, I have bought the membership for the Razz Magazine since Term 1, and the Exe Uni Swing in Term 2 (I guess I am hooked on dancing). Standard membership of the Razz Mag costs 15 GBP for the entire year and as for the dance, standard membership costs 5 BGP. For the events held by the societies (for example, seasonal balls where you have a three-course meal with like-minded individuals!), students with membership won’t need to spend as much as those who are not members!

“Sometimes just to say your own truth out loud is enough to find others like you.”

– Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Being a part of society is a huge part of student life. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to buy memberships from the start of your uni life. My only advice for you is to try at least one society while you are here and be amazed by your hidden potential. And you’ll probably find that doing the activities which bring you joy might just be the most convenient way to make friends!

Oh and, just this morning, as I wrote this blog, Taylor Swift released a new album, “The Tortured Poets Department”; if you feel like you want to talk about it, or sing these new songs with fellow Swifties, let me tell you that we happen to have the Taylor Swift Society at the University of Exeter!