When I left school, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I left behind a series of extracurricular activities I had dedicated my life to. I finished high school as captain and MVP (Most Valuable Player) of my volleyball team, a founding member of an online newspaper and editor-in-chief of a printed newspaper. I was also an accomplished pianist (though I will admit, piano and volleyball do not go well. One requires your fingers to be in good form, and the other requires them to be sacrificed for the game).
I was worried that at York I would have to give up the things I loved.
This was not the case.
Discovering York’s extracurricular activities
I made sure I researched ahead of time, selecting universities based on if they had volleyball teams or not. I found the volleyball club’s Facebook page and messaged the York team directly. They invited me to a pre-season training. As term started, I went to trials and was selected for the Women’s 2nd Team. I was overjoyed to be playing volleyball several times a week, as well as matches every Wednesday. I had an amazing group of friends to play matches and go to socials with, as well as travelling around the country every week for our matches!
Student media did not disappoint either. After the bombardment of information at Fresher’s Fair, I stumbled into the Nouse elections and ran for News Editor. Sadly, I didn’t win; but instead I was elected as Deputy-Editor of the News section. Here I found an entirely different group of friends. We discussed politics, academia and University life, as well as bemoaning technology as we fought to lay up our beloved editions using uncooperative programmes.
The team produced a paper every three weeks. This meant every third weekend I found myself holed up in the early hours of the morning with a bunch of other overly-caffeinated under-rested student journalists. We would be trying to cut 200 words out of a 400-word story, or inflate another one by 150 when realistically, there weren’t 150 words total on the story we reported. Over time, I moved up the ranks to News Editor. I considered running for senior committee, but decided this was a stretch too far. I did have a degree to do after all!
A packed schedule
Here was the challenge; how to balance an English and Related Literature degree (where I read two texts a week and several critical essays), alongside volleyball and Nouse.
It was slightly easier in first year, where I had less intense work. In second year, it got harder. I took on the role of Higher Education Volleyball Officer. I was working with Volleyball England to broaden participation in Volleyball by running beginner’s sessions and teaching new people how to play. Running beginner’s was great fun, but it came with it’s challenges too!
Nouse got even busier as I became a more senior member of the team. I was trying to help usher in new journalists whilst also completing my section. It felt like teaching a dog to play catch whilst simultaneously herding cats into a corner. There were definite clashes, including when my team Captain twisted her ankle during training when it was Production week for Nouse. I ended up spending 3 hours in A&E rather than in the office laying up stories. Although Nouse were understanding, it was frustrating for them too.
Finding a balance
I started booking out rooms in the library a couple of times a week to get my course work done. This meant I could write Nouse in my spare time at home (whilst also binging TV shows like a normal Uni student). When it came to laying up the editions, I was definitely more prepared. I also had to moderate my volleyball. Although I loved the sport, I had to accept that sometimes my degree needed to come first.
Making decisions like this isn’t easy, and it can feel like you’re letting someone (or yourself) down. But realistically, you’re at University to get a degree. There’s a lot of stories about making the best friends of your life, the odd ‘meet your future partner’ etc. But you are paying a lot of money to be at the University, so you have to make sure the degree comes first.
I’m now in my third year, and I’ve calmed everything down. I have help with coaching beginner’s volleyball and I’m not an editor for Nouse anymore. I still do what I loved in high school, but I’m not letting it stress me out and overwork me; extracurricular activities need to be fun. So; make sure you find the best way to balance them with your degree. Essentially, they are both important for you to make the most of university life.
Why not read our other extracurricular blogs?