At UF, extracurricular organizations are like living languages.
When I was younger, I believed that the handful of languages I knew was all there was to it. As long as those were the only languages that existed, I had no problem speaking only one fluently. But knowing that there are currently over 7,000 living languages, being non-multilingual has a slightly different meaning.
While not exactly foreign languages, the nearly 1,000 UF clubs have found it difficult to navigate for a similar reason: You don’t realize how many there are until you discover the clubs you don’t participate in. made, it can be easy to devalue your own involvement.
Such a large presence of extracurricular opportunities has fostered an equally large culture of involvement in college – one that indirectly leads students to join as many organizations as possible to avoid falling behind their peers.
How involvement is presented at UF
Contrary to popular belief, the problem with UF’s culture of involvement does not stem from the sheer number of clubs and organizations on campus. It wouldn’t make sense to blame the wide variety of student body interests and the clubs formed for them for student engagement into what it is today.
In reality, the problem lies in the way extracurricular activities are promoted at UF.
Members of the campus community often view extracurricular activities through a quantitative lens, discussing student engagement in terms of numbers. Clubs are labeled numerically, with their actual mission statements and overall goals second to the number of them students are a part of.
The result of this position? It becomes impossible to be satisfied with your own extracurricular endeavors.
The Effects of Student Engagement at UF
Such a complex culture of involvement shapes the way we view our own efforts. When I look at my participation in the Freshman Leadership Council, African Student Union, and The Independent Florida Alligator, it’s hard not to assign numbers to those organizations.
Each possesses unique purposes, members, and essences. Seen in the context of the many, many clubs UF has to offer, they become just three in 1,000. For those struggling with the culture of engagement on campus, it may not seem like enough.
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When we quantify the organizations, clubs and activities we are part of, it can be easy to narrow down the effort we put into them. Or the time we contribute to it. Or especially: the fulfillment we get by being involved with them.
So what’s the solution?
The only way we can restore the culture of student engagement at UF is by changing the way we look at it.
We need to start looking at campus organizations through a qualitative lens – focusing on the qualities that set them apart, as opposed to how many of them there are and how many we are or are not part of.
Joining a club is an easy way to say you belong. It’s easier to join even more clubs to avoid feeling behind your peers. What’s really hard is realizing that not every club is meant for you to conquer, and that this realization doesn’t make you under-involved.
A friend of mine told me that if you run out of time on any given day to do something you really enjoy, like watch an episode of your favorite show or eat your favorite meal, you’re going about your extracurricular activities all wrong.
The truth is that student engagement is not a race to be completed as quickly as possible. Use your time at UF to familiarize yourself with that fact, and have fun with whatever you’re involved in – without numerical labels.
Halima Attah is the opinion editor at The Alligator.
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Halima Attah is a freshman journalism student at UF and an opinion editor for The Alligator. You can find some of her other work on her podcast ‘A Little Perspective’ on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.