ESTEC Picture (ESA)

February 23, 2023, by egyjr4

The Benefits of Extracurricular Activities and Where They May Take You

By Jason Richards, Aerospace Engineering student blogger

Your time at university is limited and it is very important to try and get the most out of your degree. If you were to ask any lecturer or careers adviser on this matter you will probably get encouraged to take up a part-time job or do an extracurricular activity. This is to develop yourself further outside of your studies.

I am going to be focusing on the benefits of extracurricular activities, and how it can shape your time while at university.

The variety to choose

Your course has a clear-cut path with little variation. Even when you get into third year and choose modules that suit your interests, you are still limited to certain topics in the module. This is not to say that you will not enjoy it but sometimes you may want something more than what is on offer. I joined Aerospace Engineering to get into the space sector and while I have enjoyed learning about everything there is to learn about aerospace, my main interests are just in learning about satellites and rockets. I did not have this option to even touch space content until my third year of study and even then, there wasn’t as much hands-on experience as I’d like.

For this reason, I joined Space Society, (SpaceSoc), as they were offering different student led projects to take part in. I decided to take part in the rocket competition. This opportunity has allowed me to focus on what interests me with people who share similar interests. I also spoke to one of my lecturers about helping Nottingham’s CubeSat team. I was very kindly put in touch with the necessary members and spent the latter half of the summer, learning about the project and helping out where I could. These projects have resulted in a steep learning curve with a lot of focus on the procedures required for an engineering project to go ahead, that have been compressed down in my course.

While these are very technical examples of extracurricular activities, it is not always the case. I have a friend who loves the outdoors and has joined the hiking and kayaking society. Not only does he spend more time doing what inspires him, but he also meets more people who share the same interest. There is so much variety to choose from while at university. The best place to find out what is on offer is at the freshers fair.

Benefits for your career

It does not matter what you decide to do in your spare time, there will be some skills you pick up which an employer would like to see. Organising trips for people to go rock climbing, shows skills in management and organisation, which could be the reason an employer hires you over another candidate. Even if the activity does not directly give you technical skills, there is something that would benefit you. The Careers team are more than happy to help you find how to best present yourself. You can book one-to-one appointments for advice and guidance. They understand what employers want and give advice on how to incorporate your activities into an application.

The opportunities involved

There is more to extracurricular activities than just work. While that is the main part, there can be opportunities that you would not get if you didn’t take part. While working with the CubeSat team they were invited, by ESA, to go to a training conference held at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC). As I had shown great interest, I was given the opportunity to take part in this conference and learn about how to design a satellite. I spent a week in Noordwijk, South Holland. Here I learned from experts at ESA, while also meeting members from other satellite teams in Europe. Another potential opportunity I have, is when SpaceSoc must plan a trip to Scotland for the MACH23 competition. There are multiple opportunities available, and all you have to do is decide what it is best for you.

Things to consider

It should be stated that the benefits of extracurricular activities are rewards after doing work. It is a strong time commitment and you must find the work-life balance that you are willing to commit to. Sports societies are great because of the social aspect involved away from your studies. This can reinvigorate you for when Monday comes around and help with your mental wellbeing. However, whatever you do, it will always take time. I have spent many weekends and holidays working on my projects, and it does take me away from other social activities. But all that matters to me is that I enjoy it and that is why I do it. That would be my advice; choose something you do not mind spending the little time you have working on. If you are willing to spend your weekend doing the activity, that is a strong indicator that it is the right decision for you.

A final note

University is a time for you to shape your future. It is an investment in yourself and it’s up to you to choose how you invest your time. If you just want to focus on your studies and do a part-time job to support yourself, that is your decision to make. There is no answer that applies to everyone, but instead a choice that will suit you and your situation.

If you do choose to participate in extracurricular activities, consider the Nottingham Advantage Award, where you could get recognition for your extra efforts by the University.

Browse the different work experience options you could explore to help build your CV.


Posted in Alumni StoriesChoosing Your Career