How to Get Involved on Campus – For International Students

American colleges make a big deal about getting involved on campus. It’s a great opportunity to make friends, hone yourself as a person, and find something you’re passionate about. This post is a brief guide on how you can start getting the most out of the extra-curricular activities on American campuses.

1. Understand what Getting Involved Means

This point is crucial. For those of us whose native language is not English, the first idea of what the phrase ‘getting involved’ means is getting in either:

Uncle Sam telling you what you the truth! - Image from zenlawyerseattle.com

Uncle Sam telling you the truth! – Image from zenlawyerseattle.com

  • A relationship
  • A drug cartel or drugs
  • The mafia

At least that was what I thought at first. Getting involved sounded ominous and predicted all sorts of bad things, and who says relationships aren’t bad?

However, I can assure you that getting involved simply means joining half a dozen clubs, writing for the college paper and doing radio. It means that you are showing your presence in some place other than class and that you are taking an interest in activities other than just academics. This is always good, not only for your social life and skill development but also for your sanity.

2. Think About Your Interests

It is always better to start off by joining activities which interest you or ones which you’re good at. This may sound like a safe and boring route, but it’s a solid plan for those first few weeks. Here’s why:

If like me, you love books, join the campus book club or literary circle! - Image from brewsterlibrary.org

If like me, you love books, join the campus book club or literary circle! – Image from brewsterlibrary.org

  • You will get to know other people with similar interests and possibly make friends
  • You won’t feel too much out of your comfort zone
  • You’ll be confident in what you’re doing and make a place for yourself in that community

After you’re established in one or two such organizations, it’s time to take a risk. Try to sample things you never would at any other time. If you like Harry Potter, go to Harry Potter Taco Night and join the Muggle Quidditch Club. Or try Zumba, even if you suck at dancing you may actually love it. This is not just college; it’s college in America. It’s the perfect time to start something new.

3. Make a List of Possible Clubs/Organizations You Can Join

It’s always smart to be organized when you’re in college. Do research, think about your schedule and make a list of what you want to do and when the activities take place or the clubs meet up.

Try not to schedule meetings set close together when the venues are at the opposite ends of campus or if you have class at the time. It will make life more stressful for you.

Buy a fancy planner (that you'll never use) or simply use your phone; just stay organized! - Photo by the Author

Buy a fancy planner (that you’ll never use) or simply use your phone; just stay organized! – Photo by the Author

Remember if you really want to join something and there’s a clash, you can always ask to coordinate through email or ask one or two members to meet up with you some other time. Most people will understand and work something out.

4. Reach Out

The final step is usually tricky if you didn’t attend the North Central Activities Fair. You actually have to meet the people who head or manage the clubs and introduce yourself and tell them why you want to join. Clubs are eager to have more members so its almost always not an issue.

Here are a few ways you can do it:

  1. E-mail
    If you know who the concerned person is and have their email ID, send them an email detailing who you are why you want to join. Ask them the time for the next club meeting or activity and assure them you’ll be there.
  2. Meet up
    Again, if you know who the person is and you wither know them or know someone who knows them, set up a meeting and chat to them.
  3. Walk into a Meeting
    This is usually the simplest and most common way of getting involved. Check the calendar of events, or actually open the emails sent to you by the Office of Student Involvement, and go to the meeting. Please be on time or preferably before time. It gives you a chance to mingle before official proceedings.

Extra Tips

  1. Do not over burden yourself or you will end up like me; hopping all over campus with not enough time to go back to my room and take a shower. Or sleep. Or eat. Whenever I have time in-between classes, meetings and activities, you can find me at the Boilerhouse because it’s convenient to go anywhere on campus from there.
  2. Often, walking into meetings is easy to do. However, don’t hesitate to play the International card if you feel that the meeting is exclusively for staff or members, for example, for the Chronicle or SGA.
    Once I tell people that I’m from another country and only here for a few months, they are excited to show me how their organization works and are always welcoming. They will also ask you a lot of questions about how things work back home. It’s a good chance to exchange culture!
  3. At the first opportunity you get, sign up for the mailing list of any club you’re interested in. It is the best way to stay up to date and in contact.
  4. Try to stick to what you committed to. If you want to back out, think about why ten times before doing it.

    If you're in doubt about joining a club, check whether they give out free tees or not - Photo of Author's college newspaper shirt

    If you’re in doubt about joining a club, check whether they give out free tees or not – Photo of Author’s college newspaper shirt

Remember, getting involved also means free food, free buttons and free t-shirts. Isn’t that enough motivation?

If you want to add something you experienced or another helpful hint, don’t forget to comment below!

Helpful Links

45 Tips for Staying Organized in College – Sara Laughed

The Freshman 15: Ways To Get Involved On Campus – So It Must Be True

The Top 8 Ways to Build a Social Life in College – Collegeview

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