By Wong Yu Han

Credits to Somi Qureshi
Credits to Somi Qureshi

Why it is necessary to redefine extra-curricular activities.

“For us small clubs, we don’t even care about the awards, we face a major problem in just trying to survive.”

This was the heartbreaking response I received today from a club president, whose identity I prefer to remain anonymous. The conversation was triggered based on a simple discussion about extra-curricular matters in the college.

The statement questioned what I had believed in for a moment right there, about what joining clubs and societies should mean to students in college.

It challenged the conventional perception that clubs and societies should be an avenue for students to develop calibers of leadership, a platform for one to furnish one’s skills and expand one’s social network, because I for one truly believed — I am who I am today solely because engaging in extra-curricular activities has taught me the necessary values to strive in life.

My conviction was also founded upon simple observation towards people around me, how the clubs and societies have successfully changed them and further reinforcing a sense of maturity in their respective mindsets.

But while I, and other people like me were scrumptiously indulging in that fundamental proposition that clubs and societies make you a better person, what we’ve failed look beyond was in fact a bigger issue, a nightmare waiting to occur and prolong consistently.

The biggest leap of faith we took was to create a vibrant campus environment, one that would see a bombardment of activities and events in campus, to turn the college hype up 10 notches. The bigger the scale, the better it’d be. We encouraged collaborations, we pushed for as much activities as possible, we made it a part of the criterial standard a club should strive to fulfill as part of its initiative to win an award, that is if they were interested.

We bought the idea that the more colorful this campus atmosphere appeared dressed in activities and events, more student engagement could consequently be amalgamated.

True enough, our year saw a massive jump in the increase of activities and events, clubs were subsequently more active, and certain students, although not the entire campus, were at the very least awaken. They were there, present to participate in these events.

But the price we paid for establishing this simple system, this transitional policy was a dangerous phenomenon that eventually happened, a major monopoly of student participation, something that resonated political cronyism and nepotism.

It became very obvious by the end of our service, that all these club collaborations and activities were only existent among bigger clubs that had the resources, experience and manpower to organize such big events, not for the students to enjoy themselves and understand the objective of the event, but more rather as a form of a tool, to accumulate points and ultimately win awards.

We had created a superficial system that placed meritocratic values before intrinsic values, we began to forget that students should be joining activities to meet new friends and learn lessons one could never pick out of a lecturer’s slide from Blackboard or a soul-less academic textbook, not plotting strategies to win awards.

While we claimed that clubs were competing under fair and square conditions, our accumulative point systems had forgone the pretext that not all clubs and societies had the financial capabilities and necessary resources to reach for heights like major and established clubs do.

As much as I want to admit that we fought for that, the very concrete fact was that we didn’t do enough to fight for these smaller clubs.

The point of me writing this piece, is not to criticize the decision maker, its not to blame clubs and societies for being so realistic and meritocratic, neither is it to gain empathy or sympathy.

Its primary purpose is to remind students what it means to join a club, to redefine what it truly means to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Your semester has technically already started, and in light of the upcoming clubs and societies recruitment drive, when you stop by the exhibiting booths and decide where you should register your name, where do you belong? Keep one thing in mind.

“Its not the awards that matter, its not the certificate of participation that matters, its the friends you make and the lessons you learn that matter.”

As cliche and rhetoric it may sound, I will reiterate this — do your best, and the results will come your way. The outcome may not be presented in the form of an award, but if you ever realize that you were happy organizing an event, that was probably the result that you aimed to create.

The point about joining clubs and societies, is not about the physical recognition that you get. We need to stop saying “Because I joined this activity, because I was this event’s committee, because I was president, its going to make my resume look good”.

The point about joining clubs and societies, is its intrinsic value that you exclusively experience, only if you genuinely put your heart into it. The circumstances may seem unfair for now, but reformation has never been possible in a short period of time.

The democracy of student activism will attest in the long run, as long as the struggle continues, as long as you continue to believe in the intrinsic value of extra-curricular activities more than its functional value, one day, that perfect system of balance will come into place.

By Wong Yu Han, former public relations officer of the 38th INTIMA, INTI International College Subang.

PS: I apologize for harping on the past on and on again, but sometimes there are things I cannot suppress, I like writing, because its how I express my ideas, and my ideas are often inspirations from the past that I keep reflecting. If you find me annoying, I apologize once again.

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