University clubs are a core aspect of the tertiary education experience. Anyone that has spent their fair share of time on campus has been in or at least come across an event that a uni club has organised. Seeing a group of people flock together often with free food in hand for a breezy round of social interaction and bonding, there is no doubt that these instances become a mainstay of all student’s university experience.
Yet what about the people behind the scenes? Those that willingly took time out of their equally hectic schedules to plan and organise events for their fellow students. It’s all voluntary and very much unpaid so what drives them to dedicate a significant chunk of their life fulfilling these often underappreciated roles?
I can’t speak for everyone that’s been in the same position, but my decision to join a university club committee was spurred on by a mixture of a yearning to learn and desire to connect with others. Attending club events was always a worthwhile experience that helped me spend quality time with existing friends while making new ones as well. Still, how the committee members were able to pull off many of these events always intrigued me.
One of these that I attended was an Amazing Race contest organised by Malaysians of Melbourne University (MOMU), where participants had to form groups of 3-4 and were made to scour around the city for clues on their next station. The event was held in a nearly 10-kilometer wide radius, and each station featured a game more different than the last. With it being my first year in Melbourne and university, it was impressive and inspiring to see such a large scale student-led event.
Through this experience, I learned that these committees foster such strong bonds with each other. By joining these groups, students were given purpose and goals that helped unite them. Wanting that for myself, I ended up joining Malaysians of Melbourne University (MOMU). Being part of the marketing team, it was less about organising events and more about sharing them, but still, I was part of the committee all the same. So, it wasn’t a surprise to me that I was able to experience everything that I had expected out of my role.
Yet, it wasn’t always all fun and games. Being on the other side of the playing field, there’s a constant sense of accountability to whatever I said and did. Like any other organisation, being part of the MOMU committee meant that I had a responsibility to uphold the clubs’ reputation and image. On one hand, I was proud to call myself a committee member, that I could let others know that I’m a part of the team whose events and benefits many students enjoy. On the other, I found it hard to be myself. Personal enjoyment took a back seat and I became more concerned with what could be done for others than what I wanted for myself.
Throughout my time in the committee, I felt like I over-exaggerated the role it had in my life, to the point where I had close friends asking me “Why are you even spending so much time on this? It’s just a club.”
They weren’t wrong. It was and it still is just a uni club to me. But the skills and lessons I’ve picked up along the way hold a much more significant meaning for me. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve met along the way, but I’ve also become a lot more attached to the experience of getting to do activities that exist out of my comfort zone. Gradually, I was spending more and more time on my club commitments and neglected my studies. In the end, it all worked out but there were many moments of stress and anxiety that plagued me juggling both studies and club activities.
If you were to ask me what the experience was like in person, I’d reflect on the good, the times I learned exponentially by doing things outside my comfort zone but would not at first reveal the bad.
I’ve been made to approach random strangers on the street to promote events and lead small teams. I’ve been made to talk in front of dozens of people and barbeque sausages for 3 hours. No matter how mundane each activity was, I was learning, and there was more to me signing up for these responsibilities than a simple gratification.
I am proud of the fact that I’ve taken away much more from my time here than just standard educational content.