How to have a ball of a time at universityOverseas-education | Crystal Wu 10 Aug 2021
Football was something Exeter sports and exercise science student Kaela Mei Townson enjoyed before joining the British Universities and Colleges Sport football team at the University of Exeter.
"I train two times a week and normally, we play competitively once a week," said Townson. "That's been a big part of my university experience - just making all these friends through training and trialing and all the social events that are available to you."
Townson first got in touch with the BUCS football team at Exeter through a fresher's fair taster session. She enjoyed it a lot and tried for the competitive team.
"Most universities are very accommodating of sports, because it is a really nice way to have an outlet for learning and a great way to make friends at university," said Townson.
As BUCS competitions are usually held on Wednesday afternoons, the University of Exeter gives students the option during the beginning of the school year to have Wednesday afternoons off to avoid schedule clashes. Training sessions are also scheduled outside of class time.
"It never took away from my learning or my education. It was just something as an addition, something that I get to go and give myself two hours not thinking about doing any work or any university stuff, just going and having fun with new people who are now really close friends of mine and doing something you really enjoy as well," she said.
The football team is a big part of Townson's university experience, as it added a social and sporting element to her university life.
For example, her team would have a social event every Wednesday evening after the game.
"It usually involves getting dressed up in some ridiculous themed outfit. We once had a Mario Kart theme where everyone got given a different character, and I had to dress up as one of those little sunflower things. So I went out walking through town, face painted brown and loads of yellow petals over me and in all green. I looked ridiculous, and there were people walking around as Mario and Princess Peach."
Townson did not expect that joining a university sports team would come with such a significant social aspect, but is glad she got to experience and enjoy it.
"Not only does it give you the opportunity to keep active and have an outlet from the academic side of university, but it's also just a really good laugh and you make some memories that will definitely stay with you. So I definitely recommend getting involved and participating in sport, even if it's something you've never done before."
The University of Exeter hosts more than 300 student-led societies and groups, ranging from sports and music to clubs for international students from different parts of the world.
One of the clubs established by Hong Kong students in the university is the Hong Kong Public Affairs and Social Service Society.
For students who are still hesitant and anxious about the social aspects of university, Townson advised:"Even if it's a bit of an uncomfortable situation at first, you've got to put yourself out there."
"Most people come to university not knowing anybody else around, so you're all in the same boat. Everyone is just as nervous as you are, everyone is just as terrified at starting university and seeing new faces, so you've got nothing to lose. You may as well go join something you like, you'll make friends for sure. It's a great way to do it."