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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Reflections on a semester of new opportunities

Published: December 6, 2013
Section: Opinions

My experience with clubs has been pretty standard among Brandeis first-years. A week and a half into the semester, I visited the club fair with an interest in six clubs, signed up for 40 and ended up (regularly) attending almost none of them. When I discovered that the email system was set up in such a way that every club and college-related email would automatically pass through my Brandeis email account into my personal account, I was veritably annoyed.

But I digress; I am not here to complain about organizational problems on my computer. My opinion concerns the impressive pile of hobby-spawning time-sinks scattered across campus that we call clubs.

I can say that when I first got here and did not have any obligations, it seemed as though I could visit a new club almost every day. Such was my curiosity with these new things and the enthusiasm of everyone involved with their respective activities that I have encountered a wide range of experiences. From shooting arrows next to the commuter rail, hearing about how great Palestine is, playing music in the SCC and singing songs about Jesus in a middle of the field outside Massell Quad, it has proven to be an eventful semester.

Another time, I partook in the swing dance club and was surprised to find that the friend I came in with and I were not the only dudes there. But aside from any questionable assumptions I originally had regarding the club’s demographics, I have to say I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed myself stumbling around the floor of the SCC’s multi-purpose room. Regardless of my pathetic lack of natural grace, the veterans of the club were receptive and accommodating and had me drawing my partners into awkward half-twirls by the end of that first session.

Soon after that, I attended Astronomy Club and found myself being led into an isolated, dimly lit room along with a line of around 20 other people. To the side, I heard someone offer a light jibe at how lame the club ought to be immediately after one of the higher-ups in the club pulled up a chalkboard and offered a short summary on how giant telescopes work in what one would not call layman’s terms. Indeed, none of us could have expected the learning aspect of college to claw its intrusive way into our social lives so soon.

But once we were led up a narrow passage and herded up a short ladder illuminated by a rather stern-looking red light, a bit of light music you’d hear in magic shows sputtered to life somewhere in the room. Consequently, I felt my face involuntarily shift into one of those dumb smiles that come into existence when inspired by periods of inexplicable, spontaneous anticipation of pleasant and happy things to come. We quickly circled around an enormous bulb jutting out from the floor of the little observatory we had entered—the Astronomy Club’s actual telescope. And then the ceiling of the room began to shift with a faint, mechanical “whirr” which exposed the impressive telescope to an 8 o’clock summer night’s sky. For an insane moment, I was wondering whether someone was watching a robot movie while inside the observatory, but then I realized that I was standing in the very same white dome sitting atop the Abelson Physics Building. Ultimately, I was somewhat disappointed to find that I could apparently see Venus as well with the telescope as I could with my bare eyes.

Of course, it would be rude not to mention the very organization I’m writing this article for either. As you may have guessed, I’m talking about The Hoot. I can say that I do enjoy my position within the club as a sometimes-opinions-writer. In my experience, I have been given a cookie, written about people smoking in front of me and been taught the rudiments of basic layout using InDesign.

All in all, my first impressions of clubs here varied dramatically between activities, even if they all ended up being mostly positive. They’re full of new friends, new opportunities, new hobbies and, of course, new skills for the particularly ambitious. Collectively, however, I can only describe their presence as being overwhelming. I could scarcely keep up with going to three during my first week here, and my attendance was—quite simply—basically cut short when actual work started flowing in. I wouldn’t recommend seriously dedicating oneself to more than two or three; they’re great and arguably necessary for one’s sanity, but too many clubs will destroy you like a bludgeon to the schedule.