Preparing for university: Extracurricular activities

It starts with O-Week. Your arrival at Wilfrid Laurier University begins with a blast of cheering, singing and highly recommended spirited involvement. From the first sing of “Happy First-Day” to the play of pomp and circumstance, your time here at Laurier can be and should be memorable and filled with life-changing experiences. Your extracurricular involvement is about more than just meeting people, it can steer you into a career or a lifelong passion.

“It’s often through our volunteering and our extracurriculars that we come to discover new skills and we solidify what things we’re good at and what we’re not, what things we enjoy, what things we that we do not and often times that insight or learning does not happen exclusively in a lecture hall,” explained Stacey Campbell, career consultant at the Laurier Centre for Career and Co-operative Studies.

For others, it is about personal growth. Daniel Towers, former head icebreaker and leader of many other extracurriculars, said, “Getting involved is a life-changing experience. It opens you up to hundreds of friends, allows for you to meet people who can act as mentors for you, and allow you to be a mentor for younger students.”

Whether your fancy is something active, and whether active to you means activism or athletics, student involvement is central to your academic career. It shapes you, it moves you to pursue your beliefs and make your beliefs a part of your goals.

“One of the reasons why I chose Laurier was for the opportunities that are available for students to get involved and develop themselves as leaders both with their academics and through extracurriculars,” Towers mentioned in an interview with The Cord, “Being involved helps students to develop strong time-management ability and improves their communication and social skills. I encourage students to get involved as it allows them to make friends and network with those that have similar interests.”

During Orientation Week there are an incredible number of activities you can involve yourself in; not all of them are obvious and not all are of the heavy spirited variety. Laurier Students’ Public Interest Research Group (LSPIRG) has offered an engaging ‘alternative’ O-Week which has benefitted the community year after year.

Finding activities

Different on and off-campus centres offer student-welcoming events and the Get Involved Fair put on by Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union is a great chance to participate in on-campus lifestyle and awareness committees. Of course WLU Student Publications — The Cord, Radio Laurier, Blueprint magazine and Keystone yearbook — offer opportunities to gain experience in print and web media.

“I think the best thing if you have no idea is to look around for what looks interesting, because your degree alone won’t necessarily help you figure out where you should be involved, extracurricular speaking, or volunteering-wise. At the end of the day, you have to start somewhere,” Campbell said. “Education is only 20 per cent of the equation in terms of figuring out a career and the rest of it what we learned and who we met through our extracurriculars.”

While most clubs and on-campus activities usually do their recruitment in the fall, you won’t miss out if you transferred or have now just got the hang of being on a university campus. Campus groups recruit in the Concourse frequently throughout the year. The goal is to try what you like and find what fits you.

Promoting diversity

The Centre for Women and Trans People* is an incredible, supportive space where women and trans people can feel safe and together challenge gender barriers that they face. The centre is run by an inspiring group who are always there to welcome you.

The Rainbow Centre is also here to support and enhance the lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer individuals at Laurier. Like the Centre for Women and Trans People, it’s a safe and inclusive space on campus where queer-friendly or LGBTQ people can gather and provide awareness training and programming for the university community.

Within your new home, whether you are living off campus or in a residence, Residence Life is a great opportunity to get involved. Programs include house council, residence athletics, Arts Laurier, Diversity Council, Inter-Residence Council, Upgrade @ Laurier and also WLUSU liaison opportunities just within residence.

Laurier Off-Campus University Students (LOCUS) offers students the same residence-style activities such as First Year Formal and participation in O-Week and the support of an Off-Campus Advisor similar to a traditional Res-Life Don.

Maintaining a balance

“The worst mistake a university student can make is choosing not to get involved because they don’t want their grades to suffer. Because they come to the end of their four years with the profound smack of reality that good grades are not the only thing that opens up doors,” said Campbell.

In addition, Barry Torch, president of the History Students’ Association said, “I’ll admit, time management can definitely be an issue, but if one manages not to sign themselves up for too much at a single time, the benefits from extracurricular activities will prove themselves through the friendships one builds. Looking back on it, had I not gotten involved with the campus life that I had, I would have had a completely negative experience from Laurier — one completely different from the one I have now,”

Dan Towers also added, “Yes, university is about getting a great education, but you have four or more years in this amazing community and it is the best time to develop yourself as a leader. I’ve gotten all of my jobs (co-op and otherwise) due to my extracurricular experiences.”

Get involved at university and you will go on to go great things in your career. The decisions you make can last a lifetime, so you might as well step outside of that comfort zone; leave it behind and start new this fall.

–With files from Linda Givetash

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