by Melissa Fung
No matter where you are, extra-curricular sports is a great way to meet new friends. With the amount of food you’ll consume whilst on exchange, it’s also the perfect way to add some endorphins and exercise into your routine.
I’ve never joined a university sports team at UNSW because frankly, I’m not even sure how to join. At the University of Leeds, they have student volunteers set up during Freshers Fair to give you all the information you need. They also offer “Give It A Go” sessions in both semesters, which lets you try out the sport or activity at discounted prices.
Most British universities also participate in Varsity. Once a year, you get to experience the display of true school spirit, with merch, chants, face paint and glitter all coming out to play. At Leeds, whoever wins the rugby gets bragging rights for the next year, but all sports compete head-to-head with the rival university.
With so many different competitions, you get a lot of opportunities to travel with a sports society. Most team sports will travel at least once a month for away games, as well as other stand alone competitions such as the BUCS Cup. During my year with the water polo team, I travelled all throughout northern England and even got to go to Edinburgh and Cardiff. Travel is all subsidised and its a great way to bond with your teammates.
At most Russell Group universities in the UK, Wednesday nights are designated sports social nights. When you’re with a sports society, chances are, you won’t have to worry about getting tickets to sold out events, or losing your friends on the dance floor. The one thing you will have to worry about is spending money on fancy dress costumes because they seem to love fancy dress costumes – from Baywatch to Emergency Services, Tight and Bright to Aussies in Cozzies. One thing I did learn, is that speedos are extremely comfortable attire to wear to the club.
Most sports societies also offer other social events, including pub crawls, BBQs and annual dinners. Some societies also organise cheaper tickets to watch the local team’s game.
Tour is one of the most hyped up events of the sporting calendar. Usually it’s a week-long getaway to a tropical European destination. Think UniGames, but you’ll probably be working out your liver more than any of your muscles. When you consider everything, it can be pretty great value and you get to mingle with people from other teams and other universities.
All in all, I loved my time with the water polo team and the society. They became the base of my local network and were more than happy to have me as their token Aussie.
NB: If you plan on joining a sports club, don’t bother bringing pyjamas. You’ll finish the year with more free shirts than you’ll ever need.