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Name Laura Wisniewski

Course PhD in Vascular Biology (Div of Medicine/SLMS)

Sports Club Hiking Club

What were your first impressions of your club?

I was a member back when I did my MSc and thought it was a very fun, diverse group of people who all desperately needed to get out of the office/lab/study group for a day (like me!). Most people I’ve met are incredibly friendly and chill, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. However, there were also somewhat introverted people around and they didn’t mind if you just walked in silence for a few hours. What attracted me most was that there was absolutely no pressure for people to show up regularly. If you weren’t feeling well or had a last minute plan change, nobody cared.

What’s been different about taking part as a postgrad vs when you were an undergrad (e.g. what were you looking for then and how has that differed)?

Unfortunately, where I did my undergrad we didn’t have ANY societies. I did dance in a club which had mostly Uni students, but it was nothing like here in the UK. However, as a postgrad I am much more keen on being more physically active (what with long hours of sitting) while at the same time having less free time, so needing something quite flexible.

Why is your sports club good for postgrads?

There’s already quite a few of us here, so you can moan to your heart’s content about your supervisor/conference/lab mates, and will find a sympathetic ear. It also means that you can actually meet people who might stick around for good and who are from a completely different background, which is nice and grounding and reminds you there’s life outside of the lab. There’s also the aforementioned flexibility – if you can’t go today, who cares. If you want to go every week, you can.

What would you say to new incoming postgrads looking to join a sports club? 

If you want to stretch your legs and see some of the pretty UK countryside, while chatting with fellow PhD students or some bright-eyed undergrads (or walking in silence), this club is for you. It’s incredibly low maintenance to be a member and even if you only come for 2-3 hikes during the year, it’s just nice to breathe some fresh air. In recent years, we have also put on a summer programme, so we don’t stop when the undergrads leave in late spring ;)

You also don’t need to be an experienced hiker or have the coolest gear – we grade all walks by difficulty and on residential trips, there’s always easier and more difficult walks to choose from.

Anything else you would like to share?

I can’t believe this club was the one where I formed the most lasting friendships of my UCL career. I slowly became involved in being a walk leader and am now even thinking of doing a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award qualification. It also made me confident enough that I did the Skye Trail by myself this summer which was a fantastic challenge.