Is there a guitar club looking for help? I play acoustic, electric, and bass. Does anyone want to start a cribbage league? I’ll bring my board. Is there a campus baseball team that needs a batting coach? After a couple of trips to the cage, I’ll be ready to roll. These may sound like the words of a lifelong club enthusiast, but I have a bold confession to make: as a student, I never once belonged to a school club.
When I was in university, I didn’t give much thought to the idea. Of course, I’d never really been interested even when I was in high school either. Watching my sister tirelessly juggling drama club, school band, student council, field hockey, and more – all the while maintaining impressive grades – made me exhausted. That’s not to say that all I did was study; I had a few hobbies and played on a community sports team or two. Still, I kept my distance from school clubs.
This sentiment persevered throughout university. I graduated with some self-taught guitar skills, several jobs on my resume, a solid GPA, and not a single school club to my credit. One brief season on the unofficial faculty softball team in graduate school is the closest I can muster to any sort of club activity from my days as a student.
It was only much later – after I started working at Ewha – that I would become active in school clubs. My first foray came in early 2012, when my department chair asked me to help out with UNI, the English Education department’s drama club. I’ve been sought out by the club’s director every year since and try to offer a greater degree of assistance for each year’s production.
My involvement in clubs grew again not long after writing my first Professor Column for the Ewha Voice in early 2014. After submitting my article, I became a steady reader, at first of the column I’d contributed to and eventually to other sections. Several issues later, in the summer of 2015, I received an invitation to become a copy editor. As of this semester, I’ve worked with student reporters on selected articles from over fifty issues.
My exuberance even led to a short-lived book club, which I founded with a few members of one of my classes at the end of the fall 2018 semester. While this noble attempt concluded after a mere two meetings, it has nurtured in me the desire to continue expanding my involvement in clubs.
Why am I – the self-proclaimed clubless wonder – suddenly such an advocate of all things extracurricular?
My involvement has benefitted my ability to relate to students for one thing. Knowing more about what’s going on around campus and the sort of interests that students have is tremendously helpful for me as an educator. I encourage our talented and knowledgeable faculty to make themselves available to clubs and to offer their support for the great benefit it brings to the classroom.
Next, most students who are club members are well aware of the importance of taking part in clubs to their sense of belonging. This is something I’ve observed countless times over the years. However, through my own involvement, I myself have felt the benefit. Particularly as a foreign faculty member, the opportunity to take part has given me a better sense of belonging to Ewha, something I’d recommend to both faculty and students seeking a greater sense of community.
Perhaps most importantly, in the face of increased vocational retooling in post-secondary education, it’s important to reiterate that university is not simply a four-year job-skills program. It’s about cultivating interests and building character. Students and faculty alike can benefit from the interest-based nature of clubs both as a supplement to their academic or vocational pursuits and as an important reminder that education is so much more than a means to an end.