RSOs provide valuable experiential learning

By Sidney Madden, Longform Editor and Assistant Features Editor

I am a self-proclaimed compulsive over-joiner. I say I’m “interested” in more Facebook events than I could ever go to. If I see a bulletin board, I have to stop to take pictures of flyers that will inevitably get lost in the cloud. You can imagine my overstimulation at Quad Day, where I join dozens of RSOs’ email lists. Naturally, I spent the first few weeks of freshman year at numerous introductory RSO meetings. Often, I attended that first meeting to satisfy a remote interest I had or out of respect for a friend’s brother’s parent’s recommendation.

I seriously considered joining the rowing team and the mock trial team. I rushed business fraternities and applied to consulting groups. I also wandered into Gregory Hall one day and listened to students talk about the campus newspaper. Little did I know how becoming a staff writer at The Daily Illini would prompt me to switch majors and ultimately change my career path.

My extracurriculars have provided me with out-of-classroom, hands-on experiences that are equally as valuable as traditional classroom instruction. Not only that, but joining these organizations have also allowed me to grow a personal and professional network of like-minded individuals.

For incoming students, consider joining organizations and clubs you’re genuinely interested in. Everything looks good on a resume, but authenticity always shines through. Not only that, but you’re more likely to connect with people who have the same interests as you.

For current students, continue joining organizations. Garnering as many experiences as you can will help you figure out what you want in your post-grad job.

For myself, continuing to join new organizations has led me to help plan a startup competition for student entrepreneurs and contribute to a semesterly fashion publication. From these experiences, I have been able to meet and collaborate with interesting professionals and pre-professionals and develop unexpected skill sets.

Ultimately, college is a time for personal and professional self-exploration. We sit in lecture and study for tests to apply that knowledge in real-world environments. RSOs can provide experiential learning arguably more reflective of industry. RSOs can also simply be a way to meet people with similar interests.

Before college, I remember thinking Greek life was so loud at the University, saturating social media and drowning out other organizations. I have since come to realize how sororities and fraternities are just other avenues to find your place on campus with their own social and professional networking benefits.

By joining or applying to organizations, you’re putting yourself out there. Vulnerability can and often does lead to rejection, but that’s okay. Not every organization is a good fit, but every experience is certainly valuable.

Many students have to put themselves through school by working several jobs in their free time. As a result, they can’t donate their time to join RSOs. However, if you’re able to join different RSOs while at the University, you will reap the copious professional and personal benefits.

Sidney is a junior in Media.

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