New to university? Join a club to make the transition easier for you

By Raven Nyman

(starfotograf/Getty Images)

(starfotograf/Getty Images)

Your first year of university will surely challenge you in a number of ways, and will probably feel a lot like the start of a Dickens’ novel: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. A great way to ensure that you actually enjoy your first year on campus is to develop a healthy social life—that includes making friends.

To some, making friends comes naturally and presents little to no challenge. However, for many students, meeting people and making casual acquaintances—never mind consistent friends—can be a huge personal obstacle. Regardless of which type of person you are, there are ways to overcome any of these challenges. And if you want to make the most of your university experience, then I would suggest taking steps to make a friend or two early on. I can promise that the ride will be thoroughly less enjoyable—and specifically, more painful—if you choose to go it alone. You may even be surprised to discover that you find a lifelong best friend along the way.

The easiest way to develop a social life beyond academics is to join a student run organization, or better yet, start your own club. Clubs in university are not like clubs in high school. In fact, they’re way more fun, and usually involve free food. Moreover, clubs in university aren’t simply reserved for “nerds” or “keeners”. If you don’t join something in university, that’s a surefire way to begin feeling left out. Choosing a club in university can, in many ways, mean choosing your family for the next few years. When I joined a musical theatre troupe in my first year, I did not anticipate spending the next five years of my life deeply involved with the club. I made some of my greatest memories there, had so much fun, and amassed irreplaceable experiences and skills that have helped with my resume and job applications post-grad.

One of the coolest things about university is that with the multitude of clubs and societies already available for you to choose from, there are still ways for you to get more creative. If you feel like something is missing from your university’s club roster, or think of an awesome society that you’re dying to be apart of yourself, then you can make it happen. Most universities allow students to pitch and develop their own student-run organizations, as long as you have a reasonable plan and are able to sign up student members each year to keep the club afloat.

If you choose to create your own organization or club, there are a number of additional benefits that you may not have considered. For example, many universities offer student-run clubs financial assistance for events, free bookings for campus buildings and rental spaces, boothing and promotional opportunities, locker space, and even equipment rentals for performances or fundraisers. If you’re interested in starting your own club, contact your school’s Student Society to pick up a form or find out more.

Let’s look at the University of British Columbia for an example. Their Vancouver campus has literally hundreds of student run clubs and organizations, with more created by students each year. You’ve probably heard of their famous Quidditch team already, but the fun doesn’t stop there. There are of course academic clubs, too, as well as political and social action clubs, athletic and leisure clubs, party clubs, and art clubs. There are ballet clubs, beading clubs, lego and figure-skating clubs, anime clubs, gaming clubs, and even foodie clubs.

Listing each and every club available at UBC would take up the entirety of today’s column, so if you’d like to see the full list, head over to their website. Alternatively, check out your university’s Club Days to see all they have to offer. Clubs Days are a great opportunity to meet new friends, explore the physical layout of your new campus, and discover the many types of student-run organizations that your university has to offer. Most schools host their club promotional events during the first weeks of September, so keep an eye out for these.

After exploring, if you find yourself uninterested in any of the clubs offered at your university, there are still plenty of others ways to get involved on campus—and make friends, too. Consider joining an academic association or running for a student representative position. These positions are not only rewarding socially, but they often help teach students professional skills that reflect positively on a resume. And if you’re simply looking for a group of friends to call your brothers or sisters, then perhaps you should consider the Greek system. Your school’s Student Society has plenty of information on the costs, advantages, and details of Greek life, so be sure to get in touch with them if that’s something you would like to learn more about.

Cheers to another school year, everyone!