Involvement Fair

Apparently the best way to ‘make the most of your time at university’ is to ‘get involved’ in ‘campus life’. So the Involvement Fair is the first opportunity that new students, like me, have to talk to less-new students about the things to do around here when you’re not studying.

The university takes activities and involvement very seriously. When you enter the Student Union Building you are greeted with this imposing message overhead:

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For an entire week before the fair, my inbox was peppered with links to the list of organisations that would be represented. The list of clubs and their descriptions (accessed here) made for entertaining reading. I found myself imagining what types of people join what types of club.  Would any of them have me? If you were in your mid-30s at university, what group should you join?

So on Wednesday afternoon for five solid hours the road was filled with students in matching T-shirts or costumes, handing out flyers, brandishing props, and manning tables with give-away merchandise, and sign up sheets. I headed down with my phone and an open mind.

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Each club had a tri-fold cardboard display board, which had been decorated with coloured paper, photographs, typed-up “mission statements” and photographs and stuck on with craft glue. It was amateur and very charming and reminded me that not everything young people do these days is organised entirely through social media.  No, there they all were. Looking each other in the eye and having conversations. Just like old times.

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(I was too embarrassed to take a photo of the front of displays because I have discovered that it is only cool to take photos around campus if you are taking a selfie.) 

I had spied a small-scale version of this recruitment method a week earlier when the fraternity and sorority houses set up stalls to enlist new members from the undergrad population. Many of the frat-boys and sor-sisters were wearing T-shirts that said ‘Go Greek’ which appears to be the way to express your support of all ‘Greek Lettered Social Living Communities’. They were there in force again at the Involvement Fair.

It was heart-warming to see a large number of stalls under the ‘Community Outreach’ banner. This university is indeed a place of social justice. It was less heart-warming to overhear this from one female undergrad to another as she passed by these volunteer and charity groups.

“Uh. Helping people. I am done with HELPING people!”

As I wandered through, I stopped to speak to the cheerleaders (finally spotted them!), and discovered that in fact they are a ‘dance and performance’ group.

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Opposite the dancers I was happy to discover at that a TEDx conference will take place on campus later this month. I toyed with the idea of joining the tennis club, until I realized it was less about social hitting and exercise and more about winning matches against other New England universities. I ignored the cries coming from the physics club stand. Likewise the rowing guys dressed in zoot suits and carrying oars aloft through the crowd. No there was only one club I was determined to join.

Ski and snowboard club. It is going to be a long winter here in CT and I am looking forward to the playground the snow will  create on my doorstep. When I finally located their stall, I walked up and said hello. The 19 year-old-guy behind the stand was less than happy about having to explain the offerings of the ski club to a mid-30s grad student, and he made no effort to disguise his discomfort. Undeterred I left my name and email on the sign-up sheet with the hope of using the ski shuttle buses and discounted lift tickets to my advantage later this year. I suspect he may have crossed my name off the list, or it will “accidentally” be left off the initial email, but that is okay. Thanks to the Student Union website I know how to track them down.

After an hour of inspecting the stalls, I decided to find a club that offered something that I had never done before. This is the year I am trying new things.

So Festival Chorus it is. Yes. I have joined the choir.

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