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Student Clubs: A Special Part of Campus Life

Spring of 2022 is already becoming a memory. College towns have been livelier than ever since the lifting of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) curbs. Student clubs, also known as the gems of campus life, played a huge role in this revival by overcoming multiple risks of extinction. As such, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) introduces the concept of student clubs, their positive functions and struggles, and the direction they could take in the future.

Student Clubs, the Gems of Student Culture

A “student club” can be defined as an organization formed by a group of students with a common interest. Though they may seem to resemble official student organizations and study associations, their primary functions differ slightly. Study associations focus on the in-depth study of a specific field, whereas official student organizations mainly operate to represent the school in various ways. Meanwhile, student clubs allow students to plan and engage in leisure activities outside of regular academic courses. As of now, college student clubs have been rooted deeply as part of student culture in South Korea and still stand firmly as a representation of campus culture. Student clubs can be classified into three main categories: central clubs, departmental clubs, and union clubs. Most central clubs are open to the general student body to join at any time of the year. Furthermore, they receive support funds and executive scholarships and are provided with a club room at the Student Union Building. There are nine types of central clubs at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), including sports, academics, and performing arts. As of 2022, a total of 110 central clubs are registered at the club association, SKKLUB, with 60 at the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus and 50 at the Natural Sciences Campus. These include the dance club JDA and the American football club The Royals. On the other hand, departmental clubs refer to student clubs that have been formed in which only students from a particular major or college can join. The business administration’s band club Paran and soccer club FC Upside are some examples of SKKU’s department clubs. Since departmental clubs are operated on a relatively smaller scale, they are characterized by strong solidarity. Lastly, union clubs are formed through the alliance of undergraduates at several different universities. Union clubs that involve SKKU include a live baseball watching club, Hit & Run, and a filmmaking club, Film with Me.

JDA, SKKU’s Central Dance Club

Protect the Worth of Student Clubs!

For an Upgrade on Campus Life

Although many underestimate student clubs due to how common they are, their functions go beyond that of a simple hobby. Most importantly, student clubs create growth opportunities for students by expanding their breadth of experience. Club members can improve self-efficacy and achieve self-discovery through various club activities during their relatively extended spare time. Such experiences can also help one develop various transferable skills. Since a student club is essentially an organization formed by undergraduates with a common purpose, students can obtain cooperation skills by planning and carrying out different activities. Furthermore, students can also develop leadership abilities by engaging in executive roles. Park Young-jun, an executive member of SKKU’s rock band LCDA, said, “Of course, taking part in the band has improved my guitar skills; but above all, the staff experience I gained through the club has helped me grow a lot as a person.” Meanwhile, club activities help improve time management skills. Students must effectively manage their time to balance club activities with academics. Thus, maintaining high grades while being an executive member of a club can prove one’s productiveness. Finally, student clubs allow the creation of diverse human relations with those who share the same interest; they offer students an opportunity to interact with people outside one’s usual group and offer a sense of belonging. “Thanks to activities at the Kendo club, now I have countless mentors and have made friends outside of school that accompany me at various academic contests,” stated Park, a business student who spent her freshman year in the SKKU Kendo club. Overall, club activities pave the way for personal development skills and upgrade the quality of student life.

LCDA, SKKU’s Central Rock Band

The Harsh Reality of Student Clubs

Even with such positive aspects, lately, student clubs have been struggling to maintain their position in campus culture. This is because undergraduates these days do not have enough free time to invest in leisure activities. Intensifying competition within the job market has led the public to believe that leisure-based student clubs are a burden. Lee, a sophomore majoring in economics who has never engaged in student club activities, noted, “It is hard to find the necessity to invest in student clubs when I am already busy managing my studies and preparing for professional experiences.” The increasing number of students applying for study associations and official student organizations proves this tendency. Choi In-hye, the president of the business strategy association GRU remarked that “the ratio of freshmen and sophomore applicants has increased relative to last year.” She also said that “the common perception of identifying academic associations to upperclassmen is fading away.” Aside from this, student clubs nowadays have also been facing communication issues with the school. Several central clubs have expressed concerns regarding unclear deposit dates for support funds and school event guidelines. Performing clubs have also pointed out the hardships of using school facilities to practice and being forced to rent rooms outside of school.

University Students Burdened by Studies

The Future of Student Clubs

Changes after the Pandemic

Club Booths at the Back to SKKU Event
Hip-hop Club GGUN at the Club Booth

Student clubs have experienced various changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the main customs that has changed over the last two years is the introduction of virtual meetings due to social distancing curbs. With a notable advancement in virtual meeting technologies, most students nowadays find it even more comfortable to hold meetings online rather than meeting face-to-face; hence, such online meeting customs are expected to continue even after the pandemic. On the other hand, there have also been numerous efforts to revive campus club culture. Recently, the student council hosted various offline events, allowing student clubs to continue with their activities. Club booths at the Back to SKKU event and other offline festivals have helped clubs come out to the world. Ko, an undergraduate who participated in the Back to SKKU event, mentioned that it was “great to get to know the existence of various clubs in our school with my own eyes.” Kim, the president of JDA, also stated that it was a great opportunity to finally perform offline at the campus after two years. As such, recent events have shown that students are willing to actively participate in club activities to recover from the damage of the pandemic.

Reviving Student Clubs

Student clubs will continue to play a positive role in campus culture. However, as mentioned earlier, recent patterns have shown that clubs oriented toward developing academic skills will increase. Nonetheless, student clubs should remain a place for undergraduates to come free from academic and employment-related pressures. Kim, a senior who participated in soccer club activities while preparing for a national exam, mentioned that “studying for exams requires sitting for long hours, but the soccer club activities supported me mentally and physically, which eventually had a positive impact on my studies.” Hence, students should work towards protecting club culture from real-life struggles. First, campus club activities must be given more social recognition. Sororities and fraternities, which are affiliations similar to student clubs in the United States and Canada, are commonly recognized as a qualification for teamwork experience in the local community. Likewise, Korea should acknowledge that hobby-oriented clubs can also serve as proof of one’s healthy leisure life and cooperation skills, rather than viewing it as a waste of time. Universities must also work on providing a proper environment for student clubs. Above all, students must be aware of the benefits student club activities can give to their lives and actively take part in this campus culture.

Fraternities and Sororities in the United States (unl.edu)

The small but precious efforts of maintaining student clubs have led to a dream come true of reviving offline campus culture. Although the culture may seem different from pre- pandemic years, the time has come for clubs to enact their hidden existence. Understanding the benefits of student club activities and participating in them would help Kingos to graduate with values greater than one can imagine.

홍은지  hongeunji129@g.skku.edu

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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