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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Upon stepping foot on campus at UF my freshman year it became clear how much being involved mattered. As a part of introductory conversations, people very quickly began asking, “What clubs have you joined?”

As I prepare to finish my junior year, the involvement culture surrounding the student body isn’t just a freshman year fad. Before I could even realize it, these questions have quickly become, “What organizations have you been accepted to?” or even worse, “Have you received any internship offers?” 

For a while, I, like many students, felt overwhelmed and somehow constricted by the over 1,000 student organizations on campus. Sometimes having so many options can feel like having none at all.

Instead of joining student involvements I was genuinely interested in, I joined the organizations that I thought would be a good answer to all those questions from my peers. 

As a freshman in college, unsure of what I wanted to make out of my career, this experience helped me to start to truly define what I wanted to gain from the involvement culture at UF. 

As I became more comfortable on campus, I stepped outside my comfort zone and decided to join student organizations that I could have as much passion for as my peers did their involvements, rather than merely joining a club for the sake of saying I’m in it. 

It was only after I realized that all of the positions I felt the most content in involved storytelling that I changed my major to journalism.

Over time, I began to see why these college students were so willing to commit themselves to essentially free work through their involvements, even amid extreme course loads. As college students, we spend so much time in classrooms studying information and so little time actually putting the material into practical use. It can be extremely fulfilling to get even a taste of real world applications of the skills in your field. 

The hustle and bustle of involvement culture can sometimes get tiresome and lead to burnout. I am often left wanting more, comparing myself to my peers or wondering what else I could be doing to propel myself forward or stand out in the workforce. 

However, I would argue that now is the perfect time for college students to feel this way. Experiencing burnout during college in an attempt to navigate your passions seems preferable to facing it after entering the real world post graduation. Contributing to organizations by doing what I love has not only given me the opportunity to find the career path I want to pursue, but also given me practical experience to chase that dream after college. 

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, students who complete paid internships are about twice as likely to land a job after graduation compared to those who do not. Internships and involvements act as a security blanket to enhance one’s employability and pave the way for a successful transition from academia to the professional world.

Coming from a small high school of about 500 students and limited opportunities for extracurricular involvement, becoming a witness to the involvement culture at UF was truly a culture shock to me. I first found it daunting how the people that surrounded me were my age and had so much drive. Now, I find it motivating. 

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Many successful figures have advised against being the smartest person in a given room, and luckily this is what everyday feels like as a student at UF with involvement culture. 

Sabrina Castro is a UF journalism junior.

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