A new school year means new opportunities to get involved and make some new connections! I remember spending most of my orientation stumbling around absentmindedly and getting completely lost in my new school. Eventually I encountered an array of tables at an event on campus promoting extracurricular opportunities including clubs, student societies, and student programs.
My attitude changed once I joined the students’ union representing my program. It was the result of meeting an enthusiastic team member who merely asked me upon approaching his table: “How would you like to come to one of our meetings?” I was hesitant, but I am grateful that I ended up saying “Yes” that afternoon. Taking part in extracurricular activities has been the most enriching aspect of my postsecondary experience. Because of extracurricular activities:
1. I have been exposed to more professional opportunities:
I always believed in the common narrative: employers only pay attention to your degree earned and not the experience you’ve acquired in activities outside of your program of study. In my first year of studying English Lit, I applied to a magazine internship. I wasn’t hopeful, because I assumed that my lack of journalistic writing experience would make it unlikely to be hired. To my surprise, they brought me on board. I was told that working with my student union helped to set me apart from the other applicants who didn’t participate in anything outside lecture halls. I was even lucky enough to obtain a part time job on campus thanks to a connection I made on a student society. A friend of mine landed a full-time job working for the Government of Ontario thanks to his organizational skills gained from working with the same society.
2. I have learned to value my academics:
Once I joined my student union, a whole host of other opportunities in student leadership and politics came my way. Eventually, I realized I had taken on so much that I had to be very diligent about keeping my grades up. My academics were as important to me as making a difference in the lives of my fellow undergraduates. I made it a priority to place an equal amount of time and energy on both elements of my university life. My time management skills and my ability to organize were greatly improved. Through creating this balance, I was fortunate to be included on the Dean’s List for my 2016/2017 year — without needing to forgo any of my commitments. I believe that because I got myself so involved, my classes never bored me to the point of being apathetic towards them. Attending my lectures was a decent break from the occasional stress of being an active student leader. Being involved can make you appreciate the dual sides of a postsecondary experience.
3. I have made more meaningful friendships:
It’s incredibly challenging to form new friendships in an unfamiliar environment. Being incapable of making friends in university was my greatest fear. I thought I would be too socially awkward in comparison to the others in my program. Once I joined my student union, I became surrounded by engaging, thoughtful people who made me feel welcome despite being so new. I started attending events, organizing meetings and communicating with the student body, allowing me to meet lots of individuals. I couldn’t walk on campus without bumping into at least one friendly face. The quality and quantity of the people I have met exceeded my expectations. I went from feeling socially uncertain to feeling a sense of belonging. The diversity of my friend group has provided me with a ton of support and guidance, especially during the most difficult of times. Extracurriculars can certainly help you form long term, fulfilling friendships.
4. You can do it too!
Participating in extracurricular activities will change your perspective on what you can accomplish during your post-secondary program. You will find that by taking on these kinds of experiences, more opportunities will present themselves. As the summer begins to wind down and a new school year comes to fruition, I strongly encourage you to get involved in an extracurricular activity, whether it is on or off campus. Attend a meeting of a club you’re interested in, join your student union, volunteer at your favorite organization, and if you come across an event that appeals to you, make time for it. There are always posters, newsletters, booths and social media posts seeking people like you. Venture around the campus and your own community to see what’s going on and how you could get involved.