Would you describe yourself as socially awkward? Anti-social? Introverted? Do loud clubs with sticky floors, drunk people and over-played music scare you? Then a great option for you could be your university’s Chess Society. Chess has always been the sanctuary for brace and sweater-wearing nerds.
Firstly, this stereotype is disingenuous. The chess players I met weren’t all geeky hypochondriacs who code and watch anime in their mother’s basements. A lot of them were easy-going, laidback and cool. To play chess you don’t need to be a mathematician. As for me, I only know the most basic of HTML, which isn’t really code, and I majored in English rather than Maths. True, I love Studio Ghibli, but that’s closer to art than anime.
Even so, the Chess Society really allowed me to flourish. Before I joined I was a socially awkward introvert. Yet I met great people who encouraged me to accept myself. Later, they became my housemates and closest friends.
This is a great message to any of those freshers who are worried that they may be social outcasts. And as Inspiring Interns argues, joining societies such as Chess is a great way of making friends.
Joining Chess allowed me to socialise with like-minded people. They were patient and non-judgemental. It didn’t matter that I was one of the worst players in the society (when I joined at least,) my university society welcomed all levels. They were more than happy to help me improve. Another way I improved was playing online using websites such as Chess.com and Spark Chess.
And I needed to improve. I regularly made beginner’s mistakes like falling for the Fried Liver Attack or doing too many pawn moves in the opening. Don’t worry if you get lost in this chess jargon. What you need to know is that with every mistake and loss, I learned something and I improved. And this is a great life lesson. Treat every failure, every mistake and every loss as a learning experience. You can learn from your mistakes and make sure they never happen again.
At the end of my first year, I was elected as the secretary of the society. I held this position for two years (I know, my coolness points just went up to over 9,000) and I headed up their communication and administration. This was a straightforward way of getting some work experience, without even having a job. It also gave me easy answers to common interview questions such as “tell me about an accomplishment you’re most proud of” or “tell me a time you handled a difficult situation.”
Overseeing communication and administration gave me strong transferable skills. I learnt how to set up mailing lists and how to manage databases, which all looks great on my CV. Finally, I was able to apply what I learnt to my future jobs.
And in case you’re still under the impression that chess players are socially awkward, women-repellent nerds, then remember that I met my girlfriend of one and a half years in my society. And she was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. If that isn’t motivation to join a society of some type, I don’t know what is.
- By James Linton