Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Are you looking to build you extra curricular portfolio? Or maybe you don’t quite know what to do with all the spare free time you have. The Duke of Edinburgh scheme may be the one, but I’m also keen to encourage you all to find a hobby or passion of yours and pursue it.
Not only will extra curricular clubs allow you to do the cliche ‘learn new skills’, but there are numerous health, well-being, personality and career benefits which come along with doing something which is non-academic and non-social-media based (unless that is the exact field of work you’ve begun to pursue one of your many passions in).
For me, I’ve always had a practical side to me, enjoying origami from the age of about 9; creating intricate models from the smallest squares of paper, to becoming a scout and developing a sense of community and creativity which I hadn’t fully explored before. Since the early discoveries of playing with paper at home and trips to the local nursing home to sing songs to the elderly, I’ve had opportunities and experiences which I wouldn’t have ever considered otherwise.
To partake in things which push you just a little at a time out of your comfort zone; whether that be exploring new mediums of art or practising piano in a way just slightly more complex than you are used to, each stage of development of a skill or hobby allows for new character developments and a perspective on your life from a new lens. In turn, it’ll almost always somehow lead to other events, initiatives and ideas which wouldn’t have appeared had you not begun any extracurricular activity initially.
My origami making led me to creating wedding decorations for various relatives and parties which has been quite exciting. Singing at a nursing home made me realise old people are actually pretty cool and since then I’ve been fortunate enough to work with cancer patients and adults with autism. These experiences weren’t planned but as a result of testing out new things and places as opportunities have risen.
To put yourself out there is not easy. It requires a desire to learn and build one’s personality but once you have signed up for a new experience, booked yourself in for a netball game or bought that new art equipment to try, that’s already half of the process complete. It’s important to keep an open mind and be up for building yourself a strong minded character. If you’re in the early years of secondary school, particularly years 8 and 9, they’re really good years to try and get into the community and do some placements.
Approach some charity shops and see if they need volunteers, look at programmes on the do-it.org website to see if anything catches your eye. Look up local sports clubs in your area - there are running clubs in almost every part of the UK. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done any running beyond running for the bus - every runner begins somewhere! My sister’s in Year 8 and has developed an astounding love for a particular style of Art which I truly admire. Though I may enjoy practical work, Fine Art has for a long time been beyond me but seeing her array of multiple brushes has inspired me and I’m looking forward to her teaching me over the summer season (because there’s also nothing wrong with learning from people younger than yourself).
I mentioned that extra curricular is phnemonal for one’s mental health too - and that’s true. As you go further into studies and no doubt adulthood, it’s nice to have a way to take a break from the daily bombardment of crazy deadlines, pressures and expectations. To be able to take a step back for yourself is important and key in maintaining a healthy relationship with school and work. I can say that from the exam period I have just completed, all the exercise routines I completed truly helped keep my mind as fresh as one can get it during such a season and ensuring to spend time with the family (when I wasn’t too angst) and younger siblings made the exam period as enjoyable as it can get.
And finally, all these various events, activities and groups which you become a part of will always benefit your career path immensely. When applying to colleges, for apprenticeships and universities they do like to see that you’re not a wholly academic student but that you also know how to enjoy your day-to-day routine, balance pressures and have a character which will be able to tolerate and enjoy whichever field of study or work you plan to go into.
That’s where the DofE award comes in. An award which is achieved as a result of a certain amount of time dedicated to a sport, skill and form of charity work, I do believe it’s a good way to kickstart finding a passion if you haven’t discovered many already - or a way of developing existing skills. It’s an award very commonly completed now so it may not be quite what makes you stand out in a job interview or sixth form application, but the skills you learn from it are invaluable and if they lead to skills and other opportunities which are more unique to you - that is what will make you stand out.
Remember, even if you take part in something now which didn’t seem to majorly benefit you, you’ll hopefully reap the benefits later on.
Overall, do new things, challenge yourself and know your only barrier to better experiences is yourself.