Wide Open Windows of Opportunity

Body: 

Don’t spend all your time on your work, argues PhD candidate Dom Weinberg. Seize the many other chances the University offers to learn and experience.

The peaceful summer months are over, lecture halls, seminar rooms and library spots are full, and your to-do and to-read lists are probably filling up nicely. But it’s not just the academic year that’s kicked off. Olympos has a whole new period of sport and fitness courses - from volleyball and climbing to yoga; the Green Office Utrecht is planning a sustainable food festival; and Studium Generale has begun a new series of discussions on individualism and cohesion in Dutch society. Parnassos is hosting a myriad of cultural workshops and societies are throwing socials and meetings across the city, sharing ideas and contributing to the diverse and thriving university that we work in. All this, and much more, takes place every week.

It’s only when you leave academia, as I did after completing my bachelor's over eight years ago, that you realise that life outside the university bubble isn’t quite so full of such opportunities, organised with you in mind. Sure, the 'real world’ contains plenty of sports clubs, creative classes and projects which contribute to social change, but they’re rarely as accessible as when you’re inside a university - they’re just a bit further from where you live, a bit more expensive, a bit less welcoming.

I imagine many of us, myself included, know there are such opportunities available, yet fail to make the most of them because we feel like we should spend that time on our work. But this probably isn’t a good way to think about personal development. Extra-curricular activities undoubtedly contribute to our physical and mental health, giving us a chance to stretch that cramped back and have some fun. There’s no doubt that healthy thinkers are better thinkers, so why not let stress of your work slowly fade beneath the warm glow of a healthier posture and new friends?

Perhaps even more importantly, taking part in alternative activities is a great way to gain transferable skills and access to networks that can prove to be invaluable later in life. Looking back at my years as a bachelor’s student, it was a friend I’d made while volunteering who spotted the opportunity that led to my first job. And I wouldn’t have got through the job interviews without the people skills I’d gained from playing (and refereeing) team sports, or the confidence I had developed in public speaking from a few appearances onstage in student dramatics production.

Writing this reminded me that I’ve never regretted jumping in, so this term, I’ve taken the plunge and joined UU’s beginners choir. Go on, surprise yourself, sign up for something new right now!

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