Saturday, 23 March 2013

To Club or Not to Club

I went abroad as an exchange student and the experience opened my mind. Not only was it a school of life with daily lectures, but it also absolutely changed the angle upon which I was looking at the world, people, and the whole experience. Sometimes I stood in my own surprise at how different life at university may be when in a foreign country. Since the first day of my stay my mind has been processing information about how antagonistically things may work and how much attention is being (or sometimes should be) given to a single student visiting a strange land. After I came back, I devoted bits of my attention to how these things work at Masaryk University.

The first and the most important fact is that they actually work. Never have I been so surprised as when I realised how incredibly much attention is being given to the international students at MU. Most of that attention is produced by the International Student Club (ISC) at MU full of people of good will, time to volunteer and ability to cheer up whoever forgets to wear a smile. ISC is a non-profit and non-political student organisation that became part of the Erasmus Student Network in 2004. Its activities serve hundreds of international students with loads of fun and help each semester and I had a chance to be a part of it. I became a tutor. If a student from abroad comes alone without a friend, he may be sure of getting one at his arrival. Tutoring is about being awake when your student gets lost in the middle of the night, and also about reviewing your whole life at the police office during 4 hours of waiting for a single stamp. The official part of it is help, while the unofficial one soon turns out to be a friendship. Once a tutor takes care of a student, they undergo most of the amusements produced by ISC together. Whether attending board game sessions every week, whether doing sports, whether wanting to learn new language or know the diverse faces of Brno, whether wanting to go for a trip or an excursion, and finally, whether wanting to party hard every other day – you may. ISC provides extensive scale of activities and regular sessions including Country Presentations – the best fun one can have with exchange students.

Masaryk University has not, however, prepared ground only for short-term international students. My eyes opened wider than usual at the sight of a list of all the possible and impossible student clubs that exist here. I became a part of some of them and can tell that on top of the fresh new info for you curriculum vitae, you can get involved in what you love doing and spend your free time wisely, while still having fun. I love writing, so I went for the book club and ended up as an editor, illustrator, graphic designer and an author of several pieces for the departmental magazine. It's like preparing oneself for the 'real' life, while still sitting in a comfortable armchair for students who can back off whenever they feel like not doing it. But what if you don't want to work on a magazine? You don't have to! Maybe you'd like to perform in a drama club. Or you want to find a group of devoted hikers. Maybe your interest flows in the direction of singing in the choir, or you want to become a majorette? Do you want to watch movies and have it as a programme of your university club? For some it has been always their dream to work in a radio – well, there you go! All of such clubs are founded at the Masaryk University.

I have realized lately that some students are more grown-up than others. They don't want to watch movies in their club anymore, and they don't want to write poems for their magazine. They want to do the adult stuff, and they do it well. Mostly it is because they have the opportunity to do it – at their university. If you for example study psychology, you may join the psychologists association; if you study sociology, the easiest thing is becoming a part of the sociologists union. Then there are clubs which already offer a sort of working experience – you become a member of a club where you apply your juridical skills, you may as well join the other medical students and carry your research ideas through, or you may become a part of those large-scale whole-university clubs which cover a great deal of various social, cultural, as well as international activities.
It all may sound a bit exaggerated, or it may sound too nice to be true, but it is the way it is. You want to be in a club – you can be in a club. I joined some of them and I never want to get out. It's as if they paid you with precious experience and all you gave in return was a bit of your time and enthusiasm. My personal experience is getting a job actually thanks to participating in a university club. As everything in life works as a chain of actions and reactions – so does life at university. The only thing for you to do is care.

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