I was never really interested in joining clubs. I joined choir, the yearbook committee, and even tried out for the school play in high school, but none of those commitments really seemed to stick. Those activities just didn’t seem to hold my interest, and I stopped showing up to club meetings eventually.
During the majority of my undergraduate degree at York University, I had a job on campus. I also volunteered by helping younger students get acquainted with the university and by providing academic support. I answered questions online, both in an official and unofficial capacity. I still wasn’t interested in joining clubs.
When my friend Victoria said that she was joining Active Minds, a mental health awareness club on campus, I was skeptical. I had issues with some of the terminology surrounding mental health issues, and found it difficult to believe that a group of students could do much about mental health in the greater scheme of things.
Victoria joined the club and she had fun. She made lots of good friends, and even helped plan a mental health symposium on campus. Eventually, Victoria and various other friends of mine graduated. I was alone to brave my fifth and final year of university, and I felt a little glum about that. My friend Indie, now former co-president of Active Minds, was still at York. She invited me to Active Minds’ events and I showed up, partly to support her and partly because it was easier to hang out with people I somewhat knew than it was to meet completely new people.
Throughout the course of that year, I somehow joined the club. I’m not sure how it happened, but I had fun. My mom even joined me for Active Minds’ Paint Night, and I helped the Executive Committee prepare for their annual Mental Health Symposium. I learned exactly how much work it takes to run a club in university, and was suitably impressed.
When I asked her if joining Active Minds helped her develop transferable skills, my friend Indie replied that she has “developed so many skills such as community outreach, public speaking, event planning and leadership”. I can definitely attest to the Mental Health Symposium being well-organized and requiring a lot of effort. Guest speakers had to be booked, the event was catered with delicious food, and it all had to be promoted so that students would attend. I helped with some of the promotion and last-minute preparations, but what I did was relatively minor in the greater scheme of things.
Then again, Indie described how she “started from the bottom as a general member who would attend some of the events and contribute to the monthly newsletter by writing a few articles”, and “would have never imagined becoming President and leading meetings, planning for various events, meeting so many people and becoming a peer leader on campus”. When I think of my friend Indie, I think of someone who helped bring people together. I think she did a pretty good job.
Indie is also confident that her volunteer work and school extracurriculars will help her find a job in her chosen field of psychiatric/mental health nursing. This is a good example of how extracurricular involvement can tie into finding a career or some type of gainful employment after one’s degree, which is a major concern for most university students. Joining a club can really help put theory into practice.
I really enjoyed meeting new people and feeling like I was a part of something larger than myself during the last year of my undergraduate degree. It helped me feel less isolated, and more connected to other people around me. If not for Active Minds, Indie and I would never have met. She was in second-entry nursing and I was a psychology major. Our paths wouldn’t normally intersect. Clubs can help transcend artificial boundaries and create a sense of common purpose.
Running a club can be fun and rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work and commitment. I am proud to have helped Active Minds at York University, even if it was only a little bit. In the process, I think I may have changed my mind about joining clubs. I’m still a bit of a cynic, but it’s good to know that young people are willing to see the world from different perspectives.
About Anna Dinissuk
Anna Dinissuk graduated from York University in June 2016 with a BA Honours in Psychology. She's now pursuing an MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education at OISE/the University of Toronto. Anna enjoys writing poetry, going on walks, snuggling with her cat, and playing Candy Crush Saga.