I love seeing freshman orientation groups on campus. My love for the U dims during the school year when I am overwhelmed by papers and projects, but seeing incoming freshmen grow excited about heading off to college stirs up my school spirit and reminds me of my own freshman year. When I arrived at the U, it had been sixteen years since I had lived in the United States and I was reeling from the transition of moving from a military base to a civilian university. There were no built-in support structures for me — I’m not LDS so I couldn’t connect to that certain community of young people, and I didn’t go to high school in Utah so I had no existing friendships to fall back on. I was lonely and isolated during my freshman year. Looking back on it, I only had myself to blame. The U offers socialization opportunities for students like myself — out-of-state, international or non-LDS students — in the form of student organizations. It’s a mistake to not take advantage of them.
Here’s my unsolicited advice for everyone entering the U or coming back for another year: join at least one student organization. I especially advise that out of state, minority, international and non-LDS students join a club. If you feel that you don’t have a community or that you have no friends with common interests, I can guarantee that there is a student organization on campus that can fit your needs. Organizations like the African Student Association, the Asian American Student Association and the Black Student Union are identity-based and provide much-needed support for minority students. The Campus Baha’I Club, the Catholic Newman Society and the Hadi Islamic Society serve non-LDS students who can’t take advantage of the LDS Institute. There are health advocacy groups like the Campus Contraceptive Initiative and the Student Health Advisory Committee. There are political groups that span the spectrum from the Young Democratic Socialists of America to the Young Americans for Liberty.
Basically, there’s a club for everything, from Aikido to Writing. If a club doesn’t already exist, it’s easy to start a new one and register with ASUU. Don’t go crazy and join every single club that looks interesting to you. I didn’t join any my freshman year, but now I am the president of one club and looking to join another (the Ballroom Dance Company looks fun). Try out different clubs until you find one or two that you especially like. Student organizations should help you relax and develop friendships and hobbies outside of classes and work. Don’t let your hobby turn into work.
Adjusting to college classes and a new level of freedom was a challenging experience for me as a freshman, so I made the mistake of not joining any clubs and, in doing so, cut myself off from supportive communities and stress-relieving hobbies. I hope that all of us students at the U, whether we’re freshmen or seniors, will take advantage of student organizations while we are still in college. Join a club and enjoy the community and life balance that comes with it.