Embrace the extracurricular and join a club

Karla Karcioglu, Roving Editor Ω

Joining a campus club isn’t just good for your resumé, it’s good for your mental health.

Former youth engagement director of United Way Kamloops Amy Berard (back right) attends TRUSU clubs day 2012 to help spread her message and garner interest in those looking to help out in their community. Thompson Rivers University/Flickr

Former youth engagement director of United Way Kamloops Amy Berard (back right) attends TRUSU clubs day 2012 to help spread her message and garner interest in those looking to help out in their community. Thompson Rivers University/Flickr

A 2012 report by Queen’s University regarding on-campus health and wellness states extracurricular activities are “key to helping students reduce their stress levels and maximize their participation in university life.”

In the survey included in the report 76 per cent of students surveyed listed being able to talk with friends or family as their top stress management tool.

Derrick Doige, a long-time campus counsellor at the Okanagan College’s Vernon campus, said that students who feel connected to others on campus are generally more resilient.

“They have people they can turn to, share with and get compassion from,” Doige said.

“That support lets you know you’re not the only person stressing out and struggling, and that there’s a community that’s going through the same thing,” said Larissa Pepper, a fourth-year TRU business student. Adding that clubs were the perfect forum for hearing how others were getting through the stress.

The Queen’s University report states that “peers, mentors, buddies, staff, faculty, departments, clubs, teams and other structured supports are important in minimizing isolation and building confidence.”

Glendon Wiebe, who has been a campus counsellor at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus for a decade, said that large campuses can often lead to a certain anonymity for students, making it hard to connect with others.

Students who move away from home to attend university or college leave behind their social sphere, Doige said, adding that at the same time many post-secondary students are aged 18 to 24 and are experiencing a social identity transformation.

“Those that struggle the most are the ones that are isolated,” Doige said. “They isolate to the point where they aren’t going to class.”

“Clubs are a way to meet new, like-minded students with similar interests,” Doige said.

The skills that Pepper gained through her extracurricular experiences helped her develop more confidence to try new things.

“As outgoing as I can be, I’m a shy person as well,” she said, “It took someone to say ‘Hey, you should come out and try this.’ And if that one person hasn’t said that, my whole university experience probably would have been different.”

Now in her fourth year Pepper said that she is so invested and passionate about both her curricular and extracurricular work that she may stay at school for another year.

Doige said clubs can also provide a distraction from academic stress for students, leaving them refreshed and able to come back and do well.

“It’s not all about studying,” Doige said, “you’ve got to take breaks and do other things.”

Clubs, according to Wiebe, could also provide first year students with a third or fourth year prospective. More experienced students could relate to the academic stress and offer solutions for newer students.

Pepper agrees. She said that the mentorship from other students is reassuring, especially during the difficult transition from high school to post-secondary.

“Campus clubs are definitely an important service here at the student union and it is something that we really value,” said Dylan Robinson, TRU Student Union (TRUSU) president. TRUSU is responsible for organizing the creation and funding of campus clubs.

“It was probably campus clubs where I met the vast majority of my campus friends,” Robinson said.

“As a first-year student especially, I would highly recommend students get involved with a campus club that lines up with their interests,” Pepper said, and if you can’t find something that interests you, start your own club.

This year’s TRUSU Clubs Day will be held on Wednesday Sept. 18, outside Old Main from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.