Starting university is overwhelming. On top of moving away from home, making new friends and getting your head around your new course, the last thing you want to think about is joining societies, especially if you, like me, lean more towards the introverted side. How did an introvert like myself transform from anxious-accommodation-dweller to social secretary? Read on for my guide to tackling society culture as an introvert. Trust me, it can change your university experience for the better.
Participating as a member
Not everyone has an executive role during their time at university and that is perfectly fine – what matters the most is that you participate as a member. Why not tag along to events that your subject’s society is hosting in the first week? Through subject-based societies, you’re likely to meet and connect with fellow course mates in a social environment. Then, when it comes to lectures and seminars, you already recognise some familiar faces which should ease the nerves a bit. This might also make it less intimidating to participate in seminars and you will realise that it isn’t all as daunting as it may have seemed.
Too nervous to go alone? Why not bring a flatmate? Even if you’re not a fresher and you want to mingle more with your seminar class, take a friend so that joining the conversation seems a little less awkward at first. I went to circles with a course mate I met during our very first introductory lecture, who is now my best friend, and that way we actually spoke to people who would later be in our classes, who I would otherwise never have got the chance to chat to in the standard classroom environment.
Perhaps even dare to go alone. By second term of my first year, I went alone to the Veganuary conference which the Vegan and Vegetarian Society held. Yes, I sat alone, but so did lots of others and I still enjoyed the talks. Later, we all got to chatting and introducing ourselves to each other. The conversation just flows after that since you all have a shared interest – societies are fantastic for bringing likeminded people together. Going alone gives you a great sense of confidence too.
Running for exec
The thought of making a speech in front of an audience, having to sell yourself, plus the prospective responsibility for that role can be all too daunting. But, sometimes, getting out of your comfort zone is exactly what you need to conquer the social anxiety. Prove to yourself your capability; if you gain an exec position, you know people voted for you for a reason. Being on an exec team can not only give you a feeling of community but also of purpose if you’re not enjoying your course so much. In my second year, I was Social Secretary for Warwick Mind Aware. I’m passionate about raising awareness for mental health. I went in wanting to volunteer in schools under their new programme, only to end up on the exec team. We often collaborated with other societies, too, which gave me the chance to discover other activities on campus to get involved in, now I’d already taken the first plunge. An exec role can give you not only the opportunity to make more friends but also courage. Just make sure it’s something you’re invested in; this is for your personal development, not just something employers want to see on a CV.
Exploring your options
Start going along to opening events in your first year during freshers’ week. This way you can establish yourself and work up to something greater by the time your final year comes around. Use first year to explore what you enjoy, but know that if you haven’t managed to dip your toe into everything you want to try at university, it’s never too late.
It doesn’t take a social butterfly to blossom into the social secretary of a society. Find what makes you tick and run with it. Make your own mark at Warwick (I promise it’s not as scary as it seems).