Business Management student Ioannis-Thomas Dimakopoulos explains how important societies can be for helping new students find their place at university.
When I came to the UK from Greece, something I thought about a lot was leaving my old friends back in my country and starting a new life here in Derby – but this meant I got to meet new friends and build new relationships.
To be honest, I didn’t want to start searching for people and trying desperately to find the right friends with the same hobbies or interests as me. The truth is that it is hard sometimes at university, in a new city, with hundreds of students, to find the right friends to hang out who have the same vibe.
Finding my society
My first day at the University of Derby came. The lady who was guiding me through the facilities and showing me around campus talked to me about societies. She explained to me the purpose of the University having a selection of societies, and how they work in general.
I felt happy and excited because I knew that joining a society would be an easy way for me to find new friends. I got even more excited and surprised because, within the list of clubs and societies, there was one named Hellenic and Cypriot Society.
At the beginning, I thought societies were only about sports and only for students that shared a sporting interest. However, as I was reading down the list I could see so many topics and themes – there were so many options to choose from.
You have a passion for art or photography? Do you love playing sports? Do you like computer gaming? Or just prefer something relevant to your studies? There are societies for all of these.
The society I joined
A society gives you an opportunity to find new friends that have something in common with. In my chosen society, that common thing is our nationality. When I heard about the Hellenic and Cypriot Society, and met the members, they explained all the activities and events that they were running which I could be part of. Paintball, organised trips to other cities, booking a club with Greek and Cypriot music, gathering together to eat and have fun.
In societies where all the students are from the same country and came to UK for the same reason, it is very easy to fit in and start feeling comfortable around new people. Through a society, you are able to get used to living in the country, you meet new friends, learn about new places around Derby and, most importantly, you are having a small break each week from your studies. Paintballing was something that I would never expect to be doing in UK but, in this society, we were able to go and have fun together.
The Union of Students
The Union of Students are offering a great service to students and they are there to support us all in many ways. Blends and the Academy Bar, which are run by students, offer great coffee and food after a long day at uni or in your quick breaks between seminars and lectures, all at reasonable prices.
I am also a student rep. This means that I am the voice of my classroom. Any concerns or suggestions that others students have shared with me, I speak to the module leader and find solutions. The Union of Students supported me and other reps to be our best possible selves when in the role.
Each year, the Union of Students plan a week for student reps where they bring in key speakers for us to get inspired. We have group discussions and we learn things that might help us in our future career as well. They also have seminars to advise you how to be a student rep and what moves you need to make so you will be good at your role.
Societies are great and easy to join
I truly believe that there is no better way for new students to get to know people in the University than through societies. Especially for international students who are coming to a new country and a new city, not knowing many people or potentially no one at all, societies are key.
It is normal for a student from overseas to get worried about finding new friends but societies are the solution. The University will make sure you find the right society, to feel comfortable and give you all the support you need. I am sharing this with you because they supported me and they will do it for all students joining the University of Derby.