At university, most people you meet will have a ‘thing’- from juggling to hockey to rowing to Quidditch, everyone is doing something, and for good reasons.
After spending most of first term back pedalling out of auditions and reinvesting in my netball career (unsuccessfully), I finally found a place in Central Hall Musical Society when I was cast in their Spring Show after my audition in December. Objectively, CHMS is probably the best society in York, but that aside, finding a ‘thing’ that I loved outside of my course completely transformed my life at Uni.
Getting involved in things outside of your degree is absolutely integral to a fulfilling (and fun) university experience. For one thing, I would go absolutely bonkers if all I had to do outside of my contact hours was dive in and out of medieval literature and historical court dissents. Going out is obviously a big part of the culture at Uni, but I don’t think that it’s really enough to constitute a ‘thing’. If your only extra-curricular activity is strawpedo-ing VK’s you probably aren’t getting everything you can out of being at university.
Being in shows with CHMS has, I believe, massively reduced the potential for bad days. If I’m even feeling the whisper of a bad day, a 5 hour rehearsal immediately sets me straight. You’d be surprised how cathartic belting out soprano harmonies that aren’t quite comfortably in your range can be. Singing the feel-good, soul filled soundtrack of Sister Act, our upcoming production, at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning might be some people’s idea of a worst nightmare, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything better. There are very few things in this world that can get me out of bed before 11, and Alan Menken’s score is definitely one of them! Aside from the music itself, being surrounded by people who you love, and who love the same things as you, can lift even the moodiest of moods.
On another level, finding a ‘thing’ means that, by default, you widen your friendship circle. I was lucky enough to find some of my best friends in my halls, but I know plenty of people who weren’t as fortunate. Your halls are a complete lottery- you don’t get to pick who you live with and if you do have anything in common it’s a nice surprise. The fact that I can’t participate in a conversation with my housemates about football transfers or pipe up about Wenger doesn’t make me love them any less- they can’t offer any input either when I want to chat about the amount of times Andrew Rannells licks his lips in his Tony performance of “I Believe”. The things we care about are just different. For me, joining CHMS meant that I was suddenly spending time with people who had similar interests- who understood when I wanted to talk about Cynthia Erivo for half an hour and who might not know the offside rule either. I’ve met some of my absolute favourite people at Uni through CHMS, and the level of talent I get to be around means that I’m constantly inspired and pushing myself to be better.
At the end of the day, I love my course and I do want the best academic result I can possibly get. Right now, I’m confident in my ability to balance the two, but I know (rightly or wrongly) that if it came down to it I would sacrifice the top grades for a chance to be on the stage any day. Finding a ‘thing’ that you care about and that makes your life at Uni more than just a combination of the library and jagerbombs is as rewarding as it can be exhausting, and something that everyone starting University should endeavor to do. CHMS has been one of my favourite things to be a part of in my LIFE (I know, slow down) and I can’t imagine my experience at Uni without it, or the people I have met through it.