Student organizations offer sense of community, fulfillment on campus

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

It’s about the time of year when we all start receiving way too many emails from clubs who added us to their listservs eons ago — and well, who do we have to blame but ourselves? After all, you did voluntarily sign your email address to the 86 clubs you deluded yourself into believing you would join freshman year.

Oh, it makes me chuckle, just the slightest bit, because I did the exact same thing.

I say what I just said in complete jest — extracurricular activities can be very enriching, if you do them correctly. But what does “correctly” actually mean?

I spent all of freshman year trying to figure that out. I went to every single interest meeting that I could and did all of the silly ice breakers you’re forced to do — often I even feigned extroversion for the sake of peer acceptance.

Having lived in one of the smallest freshmen dorms on campus last year, I very quickly learned that I was not going to become best friends with every single person I lived with and that if I was going to have a fulfilling social experience at the College of William and Mary, I was going to have to try a little harder. I refused to become an anecdote like “every other person” from Las Vegas who tried to make it out in the East Coast but became disillusioned and moved back.

Luckily for me, I stumbled upon the perky people at The Flat Hat and was convinced by former Editor-in-Chief Sarah Smith ’19 to give the newspaper a chance and it paid off. It was in this damp death trap of a basement where I finally felt like I was a part of this campus, that I was finally making an impact, even if it was minute.

Since joining The Flat Hat, I have dabbled with other clubs here on campus — at the Latin American Student Union where I was reminded that I was not alone, as a part of a community service organization that had me serve shrimp to people in the rain — I have a deathly phobia of both crustaceans and precipitation, but it was for a good cause. I got sunburnt into oblivion on the first day I joined Tribe Sailing, and I even made an ill-fated attempt to join Mock Trial, but I regret none of it. Without trying each one of these things, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Without cutting out what I didn’t enjoy and sticking with that I liked, I would have been lost.

So for the new students and even us upperclassmen who don’t have everything figured out, I implore you to go try everything that interests you — knowing that you’ll ultimately settle onto two or three things that you have a deep passion for, whose members become a “second family” to you by welcoming you with open arms.

If you find out that a club really isn’t for you, then leave it. There’s no shame in it at all, and the worst that can happen is the awkward small talk you will inevitably have with current members, but nothing is ever mean spirited; they are likely just curious about what you’re up to.

My poor tortured saint of a freshman Resident Assistant reassured me that my guilt over leaving clubs was purely irrational and that completely changed the trajectory I was on. There’s no reason to be miserable — yet. During freshman year you have blank slates and easy classes, so make the best of it and get involved in things.

Just remember though, if extracurriculars are causing your grades to slip, you might need to take a step back. You did after all pay extortionately and criminally high tuition rates to have the privilege of attending classes — so please do so.

Email Gavin Aquin at gaaquin@email.wm.edu.