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Commentary: Learn from my mistake and get involved with student organizations

After high school, I relocated to Memphis from a small, rural town in Arkansas to attend the UofM. Moving from a community of less than 20,000 inhabitants to the Bluff City – which has a population greater than 650,000 – was overwhelming to say the least. 

I lived off campus, and I worked off campus. Most of the friends I made during my first semester at the UofM were from a part-time job I had washing cars, and because our lives and schedules were so different, I only remained “work friends” with them. Many of the classes I took during that semester had quite a few students and took place in large lecture halls. It often felt as if everyone else knew at least one other person, except for me. 

I will never forget my first months at the UofM, due partially to the excitement about my first moments of adulthood and the palpable energy of being around so many intelligent people and taking in so many new ideas. I will also never forget the moments of feeling disconnected, unsure of how to acclimate myself to the fast-paced environment of a large commuter school that had more students than the entirety of my hometown. 

I know now that if I had gotten involved with some of the many opportunities provided by the UofM, my first days on campus would have been easier to navigate, and I would have felt more connected to life on campus. They say hindsight is 20/20, and while that problem now feels like a quick fix, connecting the dots wasn’t so simple when I was also worried with everyday issues like finding a place to park, hoping to beat the train and trying to stay on top of my course work. Learn from my mistake and consider ways you can connect with the campus community. Below are a couple of ways that you can get involved with organizations on campus. 

Frosh Camp: 

Frosh Camp is a new-student orientation program that looks more like a summer camp. It is held during the summer for incoming UofM students. A goal of Frosh Camp is to help students prepare for success with university life, and days are spent doing team building activities and attending social events. I did not go to Frosh Camp, but I wish I had. Even in my senior year, I had classes with students who knew each other and had developed friendships at Frosh Camp, and they definitely seemed to have benefitted from forging connections early, before even setting foot in their classes. Frosh Camp is intended to be held in person and on campus, with sessions this July and August. You must register for new student orientation prior to registering for Frosh Camp, and the cost of attending the entire four-day camp is $85. 

Student Organizations: 

Are you a communist? A Republican? Do you enjoy swing dancing? Water polo? Or do you just like to tailgate? Regardless, the UofM has a registered student organization to fit at least one of your interests or hobbies. During the past three semesters, virtually every student organization has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but several that I spoke to are eager to start again in the fall. You can search for registered student organizations on the UofM’s website, specifically the Student Leadership & Involvement page, which has a search feature under the Student Organizations tab, known as the Tiger Zone. The best way to find an organization that interests you is by searching through Tiger Zone and monitoring its calendar of events. During a normal semester — I’m talking pre-COVID — there are also days dedicated to learning about these groups around campus. Here are a few groups that show the diversity of interests that can be served through UofM’s student organizations: 

- Up ‘til Dawn: One of the UofM’s most well-known student organizations, Up ‘til Dawn works throughout the year to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The program started at the UofM, and it has grown nationwide. The UofM chapter alone has raised over $1.5 million. At the end of each program year, chapters stay “Up ‘til Dawn” to honor the children at St. Jude. 

- Students Advocating Stronger Sisterhood (SASS): SASS is a relatively new student organization for the UofM, but it has grown quickly – even during a global pandemic. SASS helps women build connections and relationships. They offer a mentorship program among SASS members, pairing upperclassmen with newer students. Additionally, before the pandemic SASS held “pillow talk” nights where members dressed in pajamas, met in the University Center and had an open space for women to talk about any problem affecting them. SASS plans to hold more of these events when students fully return to campus in the fall. 

- Generation Action: Generation Action is affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Similar to Planned Parenthood, Generation Action seeks to engage students through raising awareness about reproductive and sexual health. In the past, Generation Action has hosted condom distribution events. 

- Blue Crew: Another well-known UofM group, the Blue Crew registers organizations and students who wish to tailgate for Memphis Tigers football games at “The Den,” adjacent to the Liberty Bowl. The Blue Crew also oversees tradition events, such as Homecoming and Welcome Week.

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