Nine: “Don’t apologise for your preferences”

This week NUI Galway held their annual societies awards ball. This is the first year of being on college that I didn’t have the pleasure of attending the event alongside friends that I’ve made and met through societies. Although I was a little saddened by this fact, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on what being in a society meant to me and the difference it made to those first two years in college. I realised how different things would be if I hadn’t have given my time to it in that way.

First of all, societies are wonderful things. Sure, they are known to involve heavy commitment which can be a challenge at times during college, but it being something that you love, it shouldn’t feel in any way like a chore. Societies in their essence should be inviting, welcoming and open to those who wish to be involved. This comes particularly true for first year students or those on Erasmus or an international study abroad, trying to find their feet in college through the platform of societies.

Truly, societies within their structure and place in college show us that nobody should apologise for their particular preference, no matter how mainstream or very particular it is. NUI Galway welcomes new societies each year and often they’re something completely different to the 100+ that exist already. From my experience, societies open doors and pathways to new friendships that you probably never imagined.

As I write this, in Dublin this evening, the national inter-varsity student poetry slam is taking place in NCAD. When I came to college, I had written a few poems and mostly they had never gone further than a drawer in my bedroom. It was only when I came to college that I realised I wasn’t alone in the solitary act of writing. Skip forward some time, I was competing in this national poetry slam which was something entirely new to me with an original poem of my own. (I link here for those interested: https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/a-political-poem/).

These niche interest we  might have can often go under the radar during secondary school times which can be a shame. But I think for the most part college brings with it a new confidence and sense of freedom that can be enriched through taking part in societies. Whether it be dance, drama, anime, film, debating, fashion – these are unique interests that can really come to life and be celebrated during the college years and I don’t think these interests are too likely to fade after the gown and cap are given back.

I don’t think we need to justify to ourselves or anybody else why we have the interests we do and why we give it our time, it’s simply just something we do as an all important form of self expression. I can give dozens of reasons why being involved in societies was good for me from the friends I made to the unique events we ran together and the new connections even outside of college that were made.

But it’s more important to say to those who aren’t involved in societies in college, I can put my hand on my heart and say that you are missing out. Even if you only start by going to the odd college event, it’s important to challenge yourself to get somewhat out of your comfort zone or college dorm. There’s so much happening and it’s easy to see the hard work that each society is putting in in order to make sure something good is up and running for students to take part in. So seriously, the next time the weekly email comes in telling you what’s happening in the world of societies this week, don’t place it in the trash or skip on – give it the glance and a half it deserves. You could pleasantly surprise yourself.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

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