Since it’s my third year I decided to try to make the most of the time I’ve got left (cry) and try as many societies as possible before I graduate. I’ve had this thing since first year where I try a new society every year, just for the experience. The Law Society is my number one baby and has been since I started at Leicester, so I didn’t want to do anything too competitive or time-consuming (plus sports aren’t really my forte, even though I’ll give anything a go). And so began my societies adventure of things I had never tried before.
Year one – cheerleading!
Now this was a very steep learning curve since it is an extremely intense sport. After training I would ache for days and be practically unable to walk. There were dance routines, to start with, which I had no idea how to remember! I am the kind of person who learns by writing – not practically. I mean, to put this in perspective, I used to make my driving instructor, when I was learning to drive, park the car after every manoeuvre so that I could write extensive instructions along with diagrams about how to complete it correctly. Ridiculous, right?
So you can imagine that when ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj began playing, I went into a state of panic. I would miss the cue and have no idea what was going on. With limbs flying in sporadic directions, I was a mess.
I have no coordination. I mean, zero. I have to check which way is left and right by making an ‘L’ shape with the thumb and forefinger on my left hand (which also reminds me of the Let’s Disko playlist, playing at the uni’s club the O2 every Wednesday, and the featured Shrek soundtrack epic ‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth).
And even now when I hear the start of that song it makes my heart go. I find myself waiting for the drop in the music where I’d have to rush and start frantically dancing. Very stressful stuff!
I was pretty much always dancing in the wrong direction and bumping into people. It was great. But eventually I sort of mastered one dance for our performance at an American football game. Yay!
So then there was the actual ‘cheering’, and I decided it would be a GREAT idea to be a flyer. That’s the person who gets continuously flung into the air.
Ease yourself in gently Scarlett…
It was absolutely terrifying, but the thrill was unparalleled.
You have to have complete faith in your team as you have two bases who hold each of your feet, a back who’s got your bum, and a front to stop you hitting the floor if you fall forwards.
You have to be so strong because when you’re launched into the air your whole body has to be tense. I don’t really know how it works but apparently it makes you lighter.
I was so scared to try new moves and be thrown into the air instead of just being held there. It’s difficult to explain the technicalities of all of the moves, but basically I conquered some very real fears.
I completed one performance in the bitterly cold Leicester weather in February last year to cheer for the American Football team. We completely messed up the practice, but pulled off the final performance. Phew.
All in all it was a fantastic experience in a sport that pushed me so hard, with long and relentless training sessions where you’d have to practice moves again and again. It was scary, I ended up kicking someone repeatedly in the face because I couldn’t balance on one leg in the air, and I’ve never ached more. But, there’s not another thrill quite like it.
After my brief stint as a cheerleader, I went from trying to master getting my hair quiff right, to perfecting my cha cha.
Second year led me to the Leicester Dancesport society where I learned latin and ballroom dancing.
As I previously mentioned, having no coordination whatsoever makes for a difficult task in learning to dance.
I learned the cha cha (my favourite), jive, waltz and quick step. It was actually incredibly difficult to learn the ballroom because the steps are so sweeping. But the professional dance teachers were so graceful, they definitely put me to shame as I stepped on everyone’s feet.
One of the funniest things is that when you dance in class you get into two lines and then swap partners after learning each move. But when there’s an odd number of dancers you have to practice on your own. So picture this… I’m dancing around in circles in the dancing pose, like I’m practicing with a ghost. I’m trying to learn the cha cha steps (and they’re damn fast) so then I’m suddenly falling over myself and bumping straight into the president of the society. He looks at me as if I’m crazy… “Sorry, I’m having a moment” I frantically explain.
It was quite an ordeal.
I used to practice dancing down the halls of our house, and outside lecture theatres. Everywhere really. It’s quite fun once you get the hang of it, so definitely give it a go!
However, now it’s my third year I am trying to do everything ‘properly’ and make the absolute most of my last year. Instead of trying one new society I’ve decided to experience as many different activities as possible!
It was exhausting. But amazing.
So my first taster session that I went to was quidditch. Sounds crazy, right? I get that reaction a lot.
It’s something I’ve wanted to try since first year and as a Harry Potter fan, having read all of the books by the time I was 11, I was very excited.
The session was great fun, and quite exhausting. Everyone was very welcoming, and it’s easier than you think to run with a broom (a stick) between your legs!
The game itself is quite hectic… there are almost three teams of people within one team running around. You three Chasers who try and get the quaffles into the hoops, two Beaters who get people ‘out’ by throwing their balls (bludgers) at people, one keeper to prevent points being scored in the hoopes, and one seeker who has to catch the snitch. And that’s the funniest bit because the snitch is no longer a golden ball with wings, it’s a person who runs around with a tennis ball in a sock sticking out of the back of their trousers, trying desperately not to get caught. Great fun.
The next taster I went to was the ChildLike society with my friend and fellow student blogger, Lucie. This is a totally new society this year, and aims to allow uni students to experience the games they played when they were younger. We played Uno and went and ate cake in the gorgeous Maddison’s cafe on London Road. It was a lovely afternoon!
Then I went to the Buddist Society to learn more about Buddhism. The society is more about learning and exploring the culture and practices of Buddhism. We met a Buddhist monk and he taught us all about the art of meditation. How to sit and the thinking behind these beliefs. It’s all about how we create our own suffering because it’s not situations that cause suffering, but our reactions to those situations. Another belief is that the body and the mind are connected, so you have to be at peace with both. We had to sit up perfectly straight and just think. It’s quite an art, and one which I definitely haven’t mastered yet. You have to kind of not think, but not try not to think? I know… I’ll get there. It’s about watching where your mind goes and embracing your emotions and looking at how we react to things. It’s a very interesting concept, and the Buddhist monk seemed very at peace, so I’m definitely going to stick with it and see if I can master it.
Then next up came pole dancing. Now this was a challenge! I could not believe how graceful the poledancers were. It is an incredible skilled art, and you have to have so much strength. I failed quite a few times and only managed to complete a few moves in my first lesson, but I quickly learned in the second!
It’s definitely something you have to persevere with. And it’s a little painful as the only thing holding you up is your skin’s friction against the pole. But the thrill was insane! It had a similar buzz to cheerleading, but I’m more likely to carry it on because as you progress it doesn’t seem quite as dangerous.
Then next up there was wakeboarding. And I do not like watersports. I mean I’ve done a lot of them, but I hate the idea of being capsized or trapped under water, so I’ve always avoided getting really stuck into the activity.
I had a 7 hour day ahead of me with a bunch of strangers doing watersports – sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
So we met at uni and drove to Sheffield, and of course we all napped on the way there. It was absolutely freezing and had already rained. We turned up next to this lake in the middle of nowhere, what was I in store for?
So after we got suited up (wet-suited that is). I actually make myself laugh so much it’s ridiculous.
Anyway, wetsuits are so annoying to get into, but they are good at keeping you warm! After the health and safety talk about how we could die, we headed out to the water.
We went on the kneeboards as we were beginners. You have to hold this handle into your stomach and crouch down, as you’re strapped into this board. And this handle that’s attached to a wire is going 21mph. Not that fast? Well… When you’re getting yanked off of a platform whilst being strapped onto a board, you’ll think otherwise, I assure you. And you have to crouch as low as possible because otherwise the board will shake up and down and almost definitely throw you off. It takes a lot of strength.
The corners are the hardest part of the course because you have to lean as far on way as possible in order to steer the board. And if you don’t? You get thrown off.
I never got past the first corner, but it was a fun ride up until then.
“Come on Scarlett, you can do this! Come on” I told myself as I flew across the water.
But when it came to the corner I got thrown off and the buoyant board flipped upwards. And what can happen on a rare occasion is that your strap doesn’t come undone and you get thrown under and held there by your floating board. And of course, my number one fear happened to me on my first go and I was trapped underneath my board.
“Unstrap yourself. Don’t panic. You could die. So don’t panic. Right hand. Unstrap”
And I was free.
It’s funny isn’t it? You think you’re not capable of something, you may even be terrified of it – and then you conquer it. Even if you fail, you keep trying until you get it right. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” – one of my many favourite quotes.
So I’d faced my fears after years of being terrified of falling in. AND I got trapped under the water and managed to get free. Now for the cold, wet, soggy walk back.
Because I didn’t make it the whole way round I had to trek back and the lake was huge. It was quite a walk. Barefoot.
Oh, but not before having to swim frantically out of the way of oncoming wakeboarders, of course.
It was a very strange experience, and a very cold one at that. But the thrill was insane. I would definitely try more water sports now, and although I won’t be taking up this society because I physically don’t have the time, I am so glad I took a chance and went.
And on the way back, despite being complete strangers at the beginning of the day, the five of us sang our hearts out to our own make-shift Let’s Disko playlist all the way home.
The society side of things makes me extremely sad about leaving university. Never again will I have this many opportunities at my disposal so easily, and so cheaply. They are the number one thing that I love about being here. I have learned and experienced so much, and met so many incredible people along the way too.
With all of these taster sessions, apart from one, I went totally on my own. I didn’t know anyone there and it was absolutely fine. As much as people think I’m a very sociable person and bubbly a lot of the time, I also get nervous meeting new people because you don’t know how it’ll be. But as you can see, from my vast experience of University of Leicester societies – people are amazing. Don’t ever get put off by having to go on your own just because your housemate doesn’t want to go with you. Do your own thing – it’ll help you grow, and learn, and push you to do things you never thought you were capable of!
So I’ve decided to carry on Pole dancing, Buddhist Society, and Quidditch because it’s a really nice mix of things and they’re really flexible so I can manage it around my busy schedule. If I can, so can you! You’re never too busy to do things you really want to. Just prioritise getting involved as much as possible, and do fewer things that won’t help you grow as a person (like watching TV).
So… GET INVOLVED!!!