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Op-ed: The unparalleled benefits of joining a hobby and leisure club

UTFOLD president on the beauty of finding your community
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UTFOLD is one of many hobby and leisure clubs at U of T.COURTESY OF VEEAN CHEN/UTFOLD
UTFOLD is one of many hobby and leisure clubs at U of T.COURTESY OF VEEAN CHEN/UTFOLD

September 4 was a beautiful day. A gently shining sun peaked out from behind drifting clouds. At the centre of this green, Zen-like campus, 2832 UTSG campus groups chucked pamphlets at students, nudged forward their Listserv sheets, and turned King’s College Circle into a confusing mess. Amidst the disorder, email filtering, and event trying, disappointment shuffled in as an unwelcome but common guest for club members and new students alike.

No doubt the first weeks of school can be busy, thus the clubs search ends there, lest boredom, loneliness, or cheerful encouragement convince you otherwise. The shared mission of U of T’s hobby and leisure groups is to let every interested student, alum, or faculty member find a place where they feel at home.

Hobby clubs are gems buried deep in U of T soil. The University of Toronto Students’ Union Clubs Carnival, Engineering Society Clubs Fair, and Street Festival are rare excavation events that allow these groups to glisten — but not shine at their brightest. Show and tell is the spirit of these occasions, and engagement is the core of each group. Wind blows origami paper over yonder; the sun’s glare makes anime look like a black screen. Tiny board game pieces can become forever lost in the grass, but the limitations of this event are apparent and inevitable.

Perusing through the social media of U of T clubs, you will quickly find that bake sales and other promotional activities that are more commonly practiced by cultural and ideological associations are not emphasized in the itinerary of active hobby groups. Those that meet on a weekly or biweekly basis hit the deck running. Through their general meetings, workshops, tournaments, collaborations, and more, diamonds are unveiled. You can sense the passion that blossoms niche interests into something grander and more spectacular.

You will know of the ingenuity that popular interest clubs use to develop events and activities that make any membership fee they charge worth it. If you do not feel that awe or excitement yet, it is no fault of yours. I implore you to continue discovering what the school has to offer. Pleasant surprises are not miracles here but the result of the collective, widespread efforts of U of T students who aim to provide their peers with positive university experiences.

Steadily approaching my 1,000th hour of practicing folding, diagramming, and teaching origami for the club Fly with Origami, Learn to Dream (UTFOLD), there is no doubt that my university experience would have been completely different had I not realized that club membership is an opportunity to do, learn, and gain so much.

This is U of T: one of the largest schools in Canada, and therefore one of the greatest gatherings of people with similar interests. The ease of making quick friends with people who share your language, career goals, ethnicity, food preferences, or party penchant will not fade. The opportunity to play against the city’s best Smash players at UTSmash, set a personal speedcubing record with the University of Toronto Rubik’s Cube Club, or celebrate the existence of bees with U of T Beekeeping Enthusiast Education Society, could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Ulife’s “Recognized Campus Groups” is the official catalogue of all clubs at the university. Some of these clubs have been inactive for years, so do not feel disheartened if contacting the listed executives leads you nowhere; clubs’ events, leaders, and agendas evolve.

You can challenge yourself to take the reins of your favorite hobby and lead its respective club to unimaginable heights. Should that feel sacrificial, explore clubs that spark even your mildest interest and share the joy with comrades new and old. U of T is your oyster, and may the search for on-campus belonging go on. Find your place at U of T, and may your memories of the school and its people become ever the sweeter!

Veean Chen is a third-year Biochemistry, Human Biology, and Global Health studies student at University College. Chen is the President of Fly with Origami, Learn to Dream.

Editor’s Note (February 11, 3:58 pm): This article has been updated to correct that the U of T Rubik’s Cube Club set a speedcubing record, not the U of T Rock Climbing Club.