Student orgs are more than just organizations

BY GUEST COLUMN | MAY 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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It was in the hot, sweat-stained shirt, water-bottle-drained-dry August heat that I took my first steps on campus at the University of Iowa as an incoming freshman: My major was only half-decided; I only knew two people here; I had no roommate; I was not yet settled in; I needed to prepare myself for classes; I needed to get involved and meet people. I needed to find my balance in this new place.

I found it in a student organization. The first lesson in swing dancing is on balance.

My first weekend living on campus, I discovered the Swing Dance Club. I had gone to a campus Activity Fair, hoping to find an organization to join, and there it was. I had arrived right as the members were about to perform a routine. I sat off to the side and watched in amazement; the people were jumping, clapping, stepping, kicking, spinning, smiling the whole time. I knew this was where I wanted to be. Though I had already signed up and given them my email address, I sat and watched for an hour; twisting, turning, circling, dancing.

Second semester. Finally, I could start taking real lessons. There were a few faces I recognized from the Sunday night dances, but I was essentially alone to start. I had never properly learned how to dance, and here I was, in a group of strangers, about to put myself on display.  

Lessons progressed, and I grew more confident. Not only was I improving at dancing, but I was finally starting to get to know the people in my class. We rotated partners every few minutes; I had talked to everybody. I was starting to carve my niche.

These weekly classes were something I really looked forward to. They were a break from classes, a chance to see the new friends I was meeting, a way to keep active throughout my year. This club gave me a social life. Though I had so far only gotten a loose grasp on the basics of swing dance, I felt I was starting to find my balance.

Lessons finished, and my school year has since died down. As I take my finals now and graduate from my first year of college, I realize the full effect that joining that club had on me. I hadn't realized the importance of being active outside of class until I started swing dance. Whatever you do on campus, it's more than just an organization. It's friends and it's fun; it becomes your organization. It's one more accomplishment to graduate from as you move through life.

Johanna Olson
UI freshman

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