The Weird and Wonderful World of Student Societies

Student societies are a central part of the university experience, but there are a lot of them to get through. We've prepared this short guide to some of the odder ones to help you on your way

Feature by Peter Simpson | 03 Sep 2012

One of the things about student life is that it doesn't involve a great deal of actual studying. Sure, there are lectures to ignore and tutorials in which to avoid all eye contact, but the fact is you are going to have a lot of free time. While there's nothing inherently wrong with sitting in your pants all day playing the Xbox and abusing your flatmates with blasts of Japanese death metal, there may come a time when outside contact or new, untainted chums are in order, and that's where the societies come in. There are societies for everything, from sports to subjects, but you're an individual. You need a society that speaks to your carefully-crafted uni persona, while enabling you to meet people who don't know about that thing you do with your nose. Well we've done some digging, and we may have some help for you, provided that you are a free spirit, up for a new challenge, or completely mental.

It goes without saying that fans of the running-and-kicking sports are well-served by Scotland's universities, but there's more to the world of amateur sport than a series of glorified egg chases by overly-aggressive men in questionable shorts. Take Ultimate Frisbee, for example. A fun, quirky and unisex sport that combines all the goal-based drama of football with the treacherous hilarity of a large plastic disc being thrown at head-height, Ultimate Frisbee is played by university societies in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. You don't need football boots, you'll feel like a cool surfer chap even though it's February and about four degrees outside, and – to reiterate – you will probably get to see people hit in the head with a frisbee.

If you like to keep your activity-based injuries to yourself, then Juggling might be more up your street. Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee universities all feature societies that will teach you how to toss batons in the air and return them to Earth without hitting yourself in the face. A good workout for the upper body and hand-eye coordination, the skills a Juggling society can help you with could prove vital in the fields of high-stakes student halls Xbox tournaments, and crowded dive bars where everyone else appears to have four elbows and are celebrating the fact by waving them all in different directions.

And if you fancy a way to keep fit and make friends while trying to drown, then the Strathclyde University Wakeboarding society are the people to speak to. A cool name (StrathWake), an intriguing and exciting activity (standing on a surfboard while being hauled along by a boat) and a host of exciting pub anecdotes (see previous point) await you.

Student life involves many facets that may be new and alien to you, and having to think about your food is one of them. No longer shall you be simply cramming your gullet with whatever happens to be sitting in front of you, that is unless you live in catered halls of residence. In which case, cram away. Anyway, you're going to have to take more of an interest in your food, and societies can help.

Take the Edinburgh University Beer Society, who can teach you that there's more to a pint than mild disappointment and the faint odour of cleaning fluid and mouldy bread. Weekly meetings, regular tasting sessions with local brewers, and the odd crazy piss-up should help you grasp a bit more about beer, and allow you to be the member of your friend group who knows 'the good pubs'.

Or there's SocieTea, the Edinburgh University Tea Society. If you love a nice cuppa and have a kind and charitable heart, then SocieTea's mix of meetings and fund-raising will fill some time very nicely indeed. And if you like clever wordplay then you, my dear student chum, are in for a treat. To quote them directly: “Come oolong to one of our fantastic meeteaings, it's sure to be assam.”

Societies exist for almost every whim, fancy and hobby you can think of, but here are two that surprised even us: The Glasgow University Cheese Society, and SUBAC. SUBAC is, wait for it, the Strathclyde University Bacon Appreciation Society. If you like witty conversation about cheese or bacon, wish to make some new friends with whom you share a common interest in cheese or bacon, or simply long for a forum to discuss your love of cheese or bacon, then those options are yours to take. And to think that some people say students have too much free time...

Strangely, this guide to the often-bizarre world of student societies has not concluded with the bacon people. That's because no niche is too small for the student bodies of our proud universities. Take the act of Bell Ringing, for example. Pealing isn't the kind of activity that the average person can really get involved in; for one thing, you need your own church to practice in. Yet the University of Edinburgh Guild of Change Ringers (catchy name if nothing else) can assist the wannabe pealists among the students of Edinburgh, ringing church bells, teaching and practising the correct techniques to make the bell go ding, and augmenting the ringing with regular trips down the pub.

Bells aren't your thing? What about murder? And mystery? Or a combination of the two? The Murder Mystery Society at Edinburgh University give their members a list of 'targets' for a given night, and task them with offing them all whilst avoiding suspicion, all while cutting about in lovely costumes. They also run writing workshops so that you can decide who will be stabbed repeatedly in the back while doing the dishes. In the words of the Society, you can “meet people, kill them, then relax in the pub afterwards.” Lovely.

And if that doesn't excite you, then maybe you need to take your seat in the Parliament of Oceana. One of Glasgow Uni's oldest societies, the Parliament is a giant sort of political role-playing game where members take on responsibility for different areas of a completely fictional country. They discuss completely fictional railway lines! They argue over town planning in a place that doesn't exist! If you love your fantasy RPGs, but feel as though sunlight and human interaction are essential parts of the student experience, then this society is definitely for you. You can see why we didn't end on the bacon people now, can't you?