Ramsoc. University of Nottingham Sport: Rambling and Hillwalking. Formerly Rambling and Hillwalking Society and before that: Rambling Society. So far you’ve learnt – if you didn’t know already – how the club came to acquire its name. But for me, to pose the question ‘what’s in a name?’ with regard to Ramsoc reveals so much more than a few rebrands, be they initiated by the club itself or the Students’ Union, and I’d like to explore this and reflect on what Ramsoc means to me.
I first joined the club as first year back in September 2012. Prior to starting university, I - like thousands of other sixth-form leavers fresh out of Year 13 - was extremely apprehensive and nervous about starting my degree, moving away from home and building a social life. Granted, I didn’t move far from home, but the University of Nottingham felt like a world apart from the small town I grew up in, grew tired of by my mid-teens but sometime grew to appreciate more after moving away. For a large part of my life, I never really knew where I fitted in and only began to grow in confidence towards the end of my school career. No wonder I was nervous about starting from scratch in a strange environment where I wouldn’t know a soul.
I can vividly remember browsing the Students’ Union website in January during my final year of school – chances are I was procrastinating from coursework. On the main page I could see a column listing upcoming events and it struck me that there was a club that ran walking trips. If you know me well, my rather freakish memory for detail will be very familiar to you by now; the walk destination was the Manifold Valley, and the date was 29th January 2012, which naturally was a Sunday, like all Ramsoc walks. Growing up in Derbyshire, walking was by no means an alien activity to me, and despite my reluctance to go on walks as a child (remedied by my dad’s decision to buy me a GPS for Christmas in 2005 and introduce me to Geocaching), I knew that it was something I could happily get into again. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I can retrospectively see that that evening four years and two months ago would be the start of my relationship with the club. However, I forgot about it for the time being and focussed on my A-Levels.
Seven months later I got up on a Thursday morning, logged into UCAS Track and found that my place at the University of Nottingham had been confirmed (to use their words). I was delighted – my hard work had paid off and I would be off to study the course I wanted to do at world-class university. The world was my oyster. At that point, I started thinking again about the sorts of activities I would get involved in at university. I told my dad that I’d seen Ramsoc on the SU website and I quickly realised that joining the club was – to use a cliché – a no brainer. I’d meet people with the same interests as me and have the opportunity to see the UK beyond Nottingham. The fact that I’d be venturing near to my hometown every weekend was immaterial. Ironically perhaps, I didn’t actually go home at all in my very first semester. I purchased some cheap walking boots – at this point unsure whether I’d enjoy it. I had high hopes for Ramsoc but even my naive eighteen-year-old self knew deep down that sometimes things don’t always work out as hoped.
Fortunately, my hopes were fulfilled. I moved into my room on campus, said hello to my flatmates and went to countless meetings during my first week as I sought to find my feet in this new, unfamiliar setting. I took a gander down to Freshers’ Fair to meet the people running the societies I had joined (online, naturally – following advice from my older cousins). The committee members didn’t really have to persuade me as I was already pretty much sold, but I suppose that was testament to the effectiveness of their marketing strategy! I enjoyed the first social event and the first walk and quickly became an enthusiastic member. Though one Wednesday evening in October when I could have been with Ramsoc, I had decided to go out with the people in my block (even today I’m too embarrassed to describe it) which I regretted, but from that point on I knew for certain where I wanted to spend my time.
My first year in Ramsoc was full of memorable moments: seemingly by chance meeting a girl on the Portland steps who would later become one of my closest friends, singing songs with questionable lyrical content on the coach on the way back from Snowdonia and a bonfire party involving a mining cart that had been acquired under rather dubious circumstances which I won’t talk about here. There are many more I could list if I had the time.
From very early on, I had been keen to give something back to the club that had done so much for me, so I jumped at the chance to take part in the Grade 2 leadership training. To some people of sound mind, spending an entire day on the hills around Edale may not sound like much fun, and I wasn’t sure myself what it would be like. I had a tremendous amount of fun and felt that I had really learnt a lot. My leadership experience at that point was virtually non-existent, so it was a huge learning curve. I’m proud to say I persevered and went on to become, if I may so myself, a competent Grade 2 leader, which I regard as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I grow in confidence with my leadership skills, but I felt that I was giving back to a club close to my heart. I did admittedly have quite a spectacular mishap on one walk in my second year which at the time was quite upsetting and humiliating, though I must give due credit to my friends for their support, and I learned from my mistake.
My enthusiasm didn’t stop there: I stood for election to committee at the AGM (precisely three years and one day ago, at the time of writing) and became the club’s Equipment Officer. As a first year, it was a bit intimidating to take on a position of responsibility, especially given how formidable I’d perceived the previous committee (headed by Tom Howe) to be. I felt I had much to prove and worked hard, keen to impress my committee colleagues and older members of the club.
My first tenure on committee was a challenging, interesting and rewarding experience. Inevitably, disagreements occasionally occurred, but I immensely enjoyed contributing to the running of the club and working with my friends on something that I was passionate about. Undoubtedly, the highlight of that year was the celebration held at the Albert Hall Conference Centre to mark the club’s eightieth anniversary, which was a resounding successful event that attracted members of the club past and present – some of whom had served on committee as far back as the 1970s! It was heartening to see how special Ramsoc had been to some people and I was proud to have contributed to what later won the Event of the Year award – richly deserved in my (not biased at all…) opinion.
Before I started my course, I knew that I would be spending the third year of my course in Germany, so of course I wasn’t surprised at having to organise it during my second year. However, as the year drew on, it hit me more and more that I would have to leave my social life in Nottingham behind for a year and build up a new social network in a foreign country. If I’d been daunted by the prospect of moving to Nottingham, I was certainly in for a shock when I moved abroad. I did my best to reassure myself that all would be fine and that I’d find friends when I moved to Germany. As for Ramsoc, I knew that it wouldn’t be farewell forever, so why should I be so worried? Above everything else, I knew that I’d miss everyone terribly, which I certainly did – merely thinking about it makes me want to well up. I won’t talk too much here about my year abroad as I’ve covered that in a personal blog, but all I’ll say is that despite my efforts, it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped and I never managed to find a good group of friends I could really trust and rely on. It made me realise just how special Ramsoc was to me, and I couldn’t wait to be reunited with the club.
I therefore stood for the Vice Presidency of the club while I was still in Germany and was elected in absentia. Claire, the then Ramble Secretary, proposed me for the position and read out my speech, which I’m told was well received. I was back on committee and didn’t know most of my new colleagues, though I had been assured that all were a fantastic, competent group of people. I returned from Germany at the end of May and attended the Summer BBQ a few weeks later – surprising many people who had never met me, or not seen me for an entire year.
I took up my new position in earnest over the summer prior to beginning my final year. It was a big change to be one of the longer-serving members of the club on committee, though of course I never regarded my knowledge as superior to that of my colleagues. I’m pleased to say that I’ve enjoyed serving as Vice President and using my previous experience on committee to support my colleagues. In a way, it was nice to have variety in my role as well as the liberty to support my committee as and when required – this was very different to the set role profile I’d had as Equipment Officer. If I’m being completely candid, this year hasn’t been quite the same as my first two years in the club. Of course, I couldn’t expect that an organisation as long-lasting like Ramsoc would stagnate, but then I suppose it’s only human to feel that way. On a more positive note, I am privileged to have worked with some great people and to welcome new members to the club who will shape its future.
Are you still with me? Good – I should be finished soon, sorry it’s been such a long post. At the time of writing the club has just had its latest AGM where a new committee have been elected, and the outgoing committee are due to hand over the reins any day now. It’s encouraging to see that Ramsoc – not your ‘typical’ student club (note the inverted commas) – is going strong and that there are a brilliant group of people who are willing to give up their time to drive it forward. I have every confidence that they will do a stellar job.
So how would I sum up my experience with Ramsoc? Well, that would be an impossible task – just look at the length of this post. Ok, I’ll try: this fantastic (running out of adjectives here) club has been an enormous part of my life and it has done as much as my course to provide me with experiences that will stay with me forever (sometimes clichés say it best). I’ve made the most amazing friends and have accumulated a wealth of unforgettable memories. My relationship with the club is by no means over – in fact, I’ll remember it as one of the defining influences on my youth.
But to conclude this post, I just want to say one thing. To the older members who shaped my initial experiences with the club; to the outgoing and incoming committee members and of course everyone who has made Ramsoc what is over its eighty-two-year lifespan: thank you.
By Patrick Hardern