Orientation Breakthrough: Join the Club | By Nikki Way

Yet another summer is coming to an end, with August into its final days. With a new year on the horizon, Orientation is heading into its final weeks of preparation. Starting today, The Wanderer Online is bringing you real-life stories to help prepare you for the return of school. Rather than provide vanilla advice – study hard, join student groups, etc. – we value the impact of storytelling. That’s why we’ve assembled a team of active student leaders and alumni, who are writing articles to be published on The Wand from now until the end of September. Our first personal essay comes from Nikki Way, a student that’s making headlines with her work for the Sustainable Food Initiative. When Nikki sets her mind to something, she makes an impact that you can’t ignore. Here is what she has to say.

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I remember my first week with rose tinted glasses.

It was really a mix of excitement, terror and joy, overwhelming my senses. I remember wandering through the university, being dragged along by my colourfully clad orientation leaders, passing thousands of new faces, attending the first of my classes. I remember the crazy lines for books and I don’t remember the utter feelings of shock at the prices I paid for them. But really, my most fond memory of my first week had nothing to do with any of these things, and I am only fond of it as I look back in hindsight.

Clubs Fair. Oh the colours and sights of Clubs Fair. That sweet, awful, confusing, and convoluted maze, bombarding the senses with too many things to keep track of. Logos, pamphlets, petitions, and email lists. Candy, games, t-shirts, and “enter-your-name-to-win” draw boxes. Passing hundreds of new faces and tables that you aren’t sure you’ve seen at all. And for the twentieth time, “Have you heard about our group on campus?” It really is all insanity and completely overwhelming, but it is something that I truly have grown to love.

Now, if you are a new student at this institution or simply a student who has only on rare occasions wandered from the library, you may not understand what I mean, or why I am so fond of this utter catastrophe that falls upon the university every fall. But to me it is more than a maze of student groups begging for the attention of wide-eyed students floating on past them. It was a representation of every reason why I, and many others, chose to attend a larger university over a small town college. Why I passed the opportunity for free board at my loving mother’s home in favour of paying higher tuition and subjecting myself to larger classroom sizes. I wanted to feel part of something larger, feel connected, and do something outside the drone of school, work and lectures.

I will admit that I was naturally drawn to do the things I do now, but previous to university I never really had an outlet to crawl towards, a centre of like-minded people, and an opportunity to really converse with others on issues that mattered. This maze got me involved and engaged. Because of clubs fair I joined student groups, and because I joined student groups I have had opportunities I can’t imagine would have happened otherwise. Someone was crazy enough to give me a microphone and I spoke publicly in front of hundreds of people about pressing issues I cared about. I was given the reins to lobby for policy changes that would have given the opportunity for students to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for anti-poverty projects. I met the most amazing people across all faculties, some of which I have watched go on to do amazing work out there in the ‘real world.’ I was given a home on campus, a place to retreat to after classes and labs, and use of an office space (Hey, a free locker!). I learned how to lead a team, paint an outrageous amount of posters and signs in short periods of time, and even taught the current Students’ Union president how to juggle on stage in front of all his judgmental peers.

And joining these groups has added value to my university career. I’ve found teachers that share the same passions and interests, and I’ve received faculty support on community projects that relate to my degree. It helped lead to my job with the Students’ Union, and it is the reason why I have personally sat down with my Dean. But most importantly, it gave me a direction in my studies, leading me to transfer programs and faculties. I am definitely a more satisfied student because of it. And regardless of what you think, my grades are fine, thank you.

I look back in appreciation because that mess of a maze got me where I am today, and I can’t imagine how it would have been otherwise. I take pride of what I have done, and look forward to what I will do. University would have been a dull shade of grey without it all. Crowded classrooms and homework assignments aren’t the best the university has to offer me, and it sure isn’t what getting the degree means to me. Instead, it is about taking chances and reaching for opportunities, meeting people you like but just as importantly, people you don’t. I’m not trying to tell you that your life will be hunky dory after you’ve signed up your name on an email list. It probably won’t. And I am not even trying to suggest the student groups are the only way to achieve eternal life satisfaction, because there isn’t an answer for that. But getting involved will probably take you a hell of a lot farther than you’d think, and it could be the make or break between you and another job candidate when you’ve re-entered civilization.

So you wide-eyed incoming students and those that never left Cameron library, jump in. Social justice, Greek culture, sports, recreational or academic clubs, they’ll give you what you need to make your university experience a hundred times better, and they can even be your peanut butter to your jelly with that education of yours (not if you are allergic to peanut butter, of course). Now, to receive all this? All you have to do is survive a few moments in that convoluted maze we call Clubs Fair.

Nikki Way is a third year Environmental Studies student in the faculty of ALES. She is currently the Project Coordinator for the SU’s Sustainable Food Initiative. She loves local food and juggling, and will teach any willing participant how to juggle who stops her in passing, any place, any time.

For more info on Clubs Fair, check out this page.


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