Why did you choose Warwick? Maybe you were swayed by its position in the league tables. Perhaps you visited on a particularly sunny open day and fell in love with the green campus. Or maybe you just didn’t quite meet your conditional offer at Oxbridge. Whatever your story, there are many good reasons why you should have chosen Warwick. Okay, so the green campus you fell in love with is now a construction site and the biggest Students’ Union in the country is housed in a large shed by Tocil. But, believe it or not, there are more opportunities on this campus than will ever be available to you again. In fact there are so many opportunities available here that it’s hard to know where to start. Fortunately that problem has now been solved. The place to start is Warwick Advantage – a new website to guide you through every great opportunity available during the rest of your time at Warwick.
According to Anne Wilson from the Careers Centre, “Warwick Advantage is about making the most of your experiences at University through participation in the many hundreds of extra-curricular activities on offer at Warwick”. It can be found at www.go.warwick.ac.uk/advantage
So what is available? The quick answer is just about everything! Sean Russell, Director of Student Development & Diversity, said he is “struck by the sheer range of opportunities for students here to develop personal, academic, and employability skills…”. There are 200 societies – academic, gaming, campaigning, religious, cultural, welfare, and plenty dedicated to food as well. If you cannot find something that interests you on the list of societies then you are more than welcome to start something new. Perhaps your society will become a refuge for others who are impossibly difficult to satisfy! If societies aren’t your thing, there are 77 sports clubs – some established (football, rugby), but many others which few students will have played before, such as ultimate frisbee.
Warwick students are eligible to join the local University Royal Navy Unit (URNU), University Air Squadron (UAS) or Officers Training Corps (OTC). These are units run by the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and Army respectively which aim to introduce students to military life. Students cannot be sent to war (or indeed much further than Birmingham!) and are paid for their time. There are also opportunities for cadets to seek paid adventurous training overseas. Recent law graduate Jon Williams told the Boar that, during his time with Birmingham OTC, he “snowboarded in Austria, launched helicopter raids on Jersey, dived in the Red Sea, and conducted artic survival training with Commandos in Norway”. Another graduate, Vicky Geddes was paid to attend a number of military expeditions including “climbing, canyoning and white water rafting in the Pyrenees, sailing around the Canary Islands and skydiving in Australia”.
If arctic survival training isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to see the world. For example, the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund awards money every year for innovative student projects. Previous Lord Rootes awards have seen Warwick students travelling across Mongolia by train, measuring biodiversity in New Zealand and exploring monasteries in Tibet. Four students one year were even sponsored to travel around Mexico sampling the local food!
There is certainly no shortage of funds to support students who have a good idea they want to take forward. The Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme pays students £170 a week during the vacations to undertake full time research with one of their lecturers. Others include the Reinvention Centre Small Grants Fund, Retired Staff Association bursary scheme and the Warwick Graduates Association Opportunities Fund. The Careers Centre can also provide bursaries to cover expenses associated with undertaking work experience.
But why should students take time out from their social calendar for extra-curricular activities? For one, getting involved is a great way to expand your social circle. According to Vicky Tuke, a recent graduate now beginning a PhD at Warwick, “working for a sports club, drama group, or a student publication is a good way of meeting people from other courses who may have a range of different priorities and aspirations”. This is in contrast to “students on your own course who often come from a very similar academic background”.
Of course, getting involved can also be a fun way to build your CV. Anne points out that “graduate recruiters value those students who have experienced life and developed skills at university which are transferable into the marketplace” This is particularly important as, on average, graduate employers receive 28 applications for every job vacancy. Gill Frigerio, Acting Director of Careers & Employability, told the Boar that “career aspirations are certainly one consideration in choosing how to spend your spare time… for many sectors, proving your motivation by investing your spare time wisely will be critical to gaining paid work after you graduate”.
And so you have a choice at the beginning of this year. Whether you or new, or returning, to Warwick, you could choose to drown the “best years of your life” in purple at the Students’ Union. Or you can grasp everything that Warwick has to offer and turn it to your advantage. If you are particularly energetic you could even do both. One thing is certainly clear. If you don’t find out what is on offer, you will graduate having never even known what you missed out on. This is dangerous as, one day, you will walk onto a stage in a robe and silly hat to shake the Vice Chancellor’s hand. When you leave that stage, you will enter the real world with nothing but a degree and your life experience to employers. As one commentator has noted, “a degree is no longer a meal ticket to your future – it is merely a licence to hunt”.