Today, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Henry Crown Field House, will be the Student Activities and Resource Fair, an annual event held the Friday of first week. Tables will line every curve and corner with colorful posters and signs in all directions. Upperclassmen will pitch you their grassroots initiatives and community service projects, you will inevitably sign up for dozens of listhosts on a whim, and in all the hullaballoo you may very well forget why you’re at the fair in the first place.
But there’s more to today’s event than free food and a festive atmosphere, and there’s more to joining RSOs than resume-building and blowing off homework. Forget the bullshit: This isn’t about supplementing the life of the mind or enriching your daily routine. It’s about finding friends and carving out a place for yourself at the University. Keeping that in mind, here are a few simple facts that should inform your decision to participate in student groups on campus.
Firstly, each RSO attracts a certain kind of person. These are people you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet—not in your house, your dorm, or your classes. All of you choose to be there solely because you have a common interest. The friends you make in RSOs are often unique for this very reason. You are with them not by chance, but for a shared and tangible project. They will, in all likelihood, become some of your closest friends in college.
Secondly, RSOs are crucial campus watchdogs and advocates. They are the most visible and expressive outlets of student opinion and resolve on campus and are therefore the most reliable tool in ensuring that the University lives up to our hopes. Your efforts in whatever RSOs you choose to participate in could make a lasting impact on yourself as well as others. RSOs are the major source of undergraduate activity and action at the University; if you want to encourage this campus energy, joining one is the best way of doing so.
Finally, think of the RSO fair as an exploratory process. Don’t be afraid to express interest in more than a few RSOs. This is a chance to see everything that’s out there. But don’t just sign up for every RSO that has a funny name or free food. Ask questions. See what each RSO is about and what you could do to contribute to them. Watching fifty e-mails pour into your inbox from every community service group on campus and having no desire to join any of them will help neither you nor the community.
This advice isn’t exclusively for first-years either. For those upperclassmen who unsuccessfully flirted with the karate club or Model UN, there is still time to start over. Sign up for some genuinely interesting and worthwhile listhosts, actually attend the meetings, and see if you fit in. If you don’t, there are hundreds more to choose from. And if you try them all and none are your cup of tea... well, the beauty of RSOs is that you can just create a new one.
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