“The chocolate club…the cheese club…the Lord of the Rings club…the old movies club…”
So my friend responded as I read the Big Sib Handbook list of clubs to her over the phone at the start of freshmen year. The list was hundreds of items long, incomplete and rather inaccurate, and we still couldn’t find a single club we agreed about. She ended up joining half the clubs that actually existed but never attended more than one meeting for most of them. She did, though, eventually obtain officer positions in a few of them, despite her erratic attendance. Her one big commitment ended up being the speech team.
And me? I sent emails to about half a dozen clubs. The Harry Potter club, much to my disappointment, didn’t really exist anymore since the president had graduated. The old movies club met during 10th and I had class, so that was out. The photography club, I decided, was too much of a commitment and too much work. Every week, members had to bring photos for critique, attend photography sessions around the city and take “labs” on how to use the dark room. I was also terrified of the older kids and was worried that I would seem like an amateur. What made it overwhelming then makes it appealing now, and I regret not joining. The other clubs I signed up for didn’t respond. So despite my firm commitment to joining lots of clubs freshman year, I didn’t. And I didn’t want to do anything that involved a tryout—like The Spectator or Speech and Debate—because I was scared of not making it. Although I am not Indian and had never given the club a look, I ended up in the Indian Movie Club, because my friend from middle school joined.
I had dozens of friends during my freshman year and I was busy and happy, but I can’t help wondering what I missed. I never would have joined the Indian Movie Club on my own and I ended up loving it. I enjoyed spending time with an old friend that I didn’t have any classes with and actually learned quite a lot about Indian culture. I came to understand her experience better and was exposed to something I never would have gone into on my own.
I didn’t make any new friends though. So what if I had joined Speech and Debate? By sophomore year, I felt too intimidated to join the competitive and tight-knit community of what my close friend called the “Debate Cult.” Speech and Debate is often a central part of the Stuy experience for its members, and it’s certainly a good way to meet many people quickly. However, it also feels like an impenetrable community to outsiders—it’s as exclusive and intimate as a wealthy gated community.
I recently joined the board games club and I’m making better friends there than I expected. I know it doesn’t sound like the classiest or even the most interesting club ever, but two of my friends joined freshmen year and they loved it. I scorned them but started going with them so I wouldn’t be left out, and I was surprised with what I found. The games weren’t the boring, endless rounds of Monopoly that I expected but things I had never heard of, like Hex Hex and Attribute. And the members are so close that even those who have graduated and are now in college remain members and come back to visit whenever they can.
It’s true that the clubs you join freshmen year influence the friends you make and what groups you belong to, but there are also many clubs and pubs you can join later that will still welcome you. Although joining loads of random clubs—whether or not it’s for college—probably isn’t the best strategy for happiness, the clubs you’ll like aren’t necessarily the ones you expect. And despite my love for writing, I certainly never expected to be writing this because I couldn’t imagine trying out.