U of T’s student organizations welcome freshmen with open arms. After all, new students are every club’s future leaders. With multiple Club’s Days, and Open Houses, there’s no shortage of ways to get involved with groups that pique your interest. However, earning responsibility through positions within clubs presents its challenges, especially for first-year students.
Clubs tend to recruit members to fill their executive positions in the spring. By the time new students arrive on campus, these posts are usually full, with the exception of one spot for a first-year representative. Even in smaller clubs, obtaining this spot is competitive. But thankfully as a sophomore, I’ve gotten the chance to be more involved with my favourite student groups. Currently, I’m Communications Director of the Peace, Conflict, and Justice Society (PCJS); Creative Director of the University of Toronto Japan Association (UTJA); and Recording Secretary for the Hart House Debating Club (HHDC).
Last year, I envisioned clubs’ leadership teams as event-planning committees. Every position, I assumed, worked to some degree on organizing and planning activities. But I’ve come to realize that there’s no predetermined way to do club involvement. This means seeking out positions based on my interests. This year I’ve enjoyed using my extracurriculars as a creative outlet. When deciding how I want to be involved, I look for roles that allow me to contribute my best strengths to the team: photography, graphic design, and communications. Through this, I get to polish up my rusty Adobe Illustrator skills and explore a creative side that doesn’t come out in 10-page long political science papers.
Another one of my favourite aspects of club leadership is the opportunity it provides to experience different work environments. Clubs on campus can differ drastically in structure. While some student groups are equipped with extensive by-laws, and origins older than the members themselves, others are much more casual and informal. Experiencing the contrast and working with different types of leaders has helped me develop skills that make teamwork smoother.
While club involvement is difficult when life as a student is hectic, I would definitely recommend it. Through involvement with the executive teams of clubs I participate in, I’ve formed stronger relationships with people who have shared interests. Likewise I’ve gotten to explore my creativity, including my dusty graphic design chops. While taking on more responsibility is definitely a time commitment, being part of the teams that organize the events I enjoy enriches my second-year experience.