When I was in first year, I didn’t know many people in my program or college. My two best friends went to Western University, and I was left to my own devices here at the University of Toronto.
In high school, I was in a multitude of clubs. Going into university, everyone told me that clubs are different as you get older, and cautioned me not to join as many. Despite these words of advice, I went to the clubs fair during orientation week and signed up for every single club or organization that I was even slightly interested in. If I saw a form on Facebook for a club, I’d sign up for that too.
Within the first few weeks, I was a first-year representative for the Computer Science Students’ Union, a writer for Her Campus, and a volunteer for Blue Crew.
Obviously, some of the clubs I have joined over the years have been better than others. Many lacked an organizational structure, or never actually gave me anything to do when I was in them. However, especially at U of T, I have found it incredibly useful to go to the clubs fair and interact with executives one-on-one. The clubs fair is a pretty good way to get the general vibe of a club, and an idea of whether it would be something worth investing time in.
One of the best things about clubs is that you are not bound to them unless you choose to be. I have dropped many clubs throughout the years after going to a meeting and deciding that they weren’t for me. It’s up to you to decide if you want to continue with a club, and if so, whether you want to be an executive or just a drop-in member. If you are even somewhat interested in a club, I suggest attending a meeting or two and then deciding if you want to continue with it.
A complaint I hear from my commuter friends is that it is difficult to form friendships when you go to school, attend class, and leave right away. The solution? Clubs! I know it is not always fun to stay behind at school for a few hours when you could be at home, but clubs are definitely worth it, especially if they are related to your field; you can meet people who take similar classes, and ta-da: friendship!
If you don’t really care about making friends, there are also usually faculty advisors for each club. If you are planning on going to graduate school, or may need references in the future for something else, this could help you form a close connection with a professor.
Clubs also help develop vital life skills. For example, if you become an executive for a club, this helps teach you leadership skills. I feel that in most of my classes, I don’t get the opportunity to develop skills in such areas. I also find that having more going on with clubs forces me to be more considerate of my time management.
With that being said, clubs are supposed to be fun. A lot of clubs I’m in regularly have socials, which are a great way to meet new people, network, and make friends. Clubs help you stop thinking about school for a little while and have you doing something fun yet productive.
A lot of people tell me not to do a lot of clubs because they aren’t worth it. But isn’t that what university is all about? Trying new things and meeting new people? My overall advice for first years is to take all the opportunities you can get. Joining clubs helps a lot in terms of making friends, but it’s also just a fun way to get your mind off school. University work will quickly become too hard to handle if you don’t give yourself time to socialize and unwind. So, make sure that you go to the next clubs fair, sign up for clubs, check them out, and have fun!