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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

No experience? No problem: Niche clubs on campus


Unique organizations offer students many chances to feel integrated, involved

Muscles strained under the power of his bow, Jason Sures trained his eyes at his target 70 meters away. Droplets of hail pelted the top of his head and shoulders as he gauged where to aim, taking into consideration the weather and the wind. He let his arrow fly and watched it sail through the haze of hail. A smile spread across his face as it sunk into the faraway target.

“[This is] the memory where I thought ‘this is awesome,’” said Sures, a fifth-year psychology major. “[As my first outdoor archery tournament], it was […] an amazing experience. It might not sound so, but in the moment it gets your adrenaline going.”

When he first came to Davis, he felt “a little stir-crazy” and wanted to get involved, so he looked up clubs on campus and right at the top of the list was the UC Davis Archery Club. Although he had no previous experience, he was adopted into the small group of students working to revitalize the club and quickly found his community.

“We started about three years ago,” Sures said. “We were a very small club at the time, we only had about five bows to lend out to people, and at that time more than 50 people would want to come [to our lessons]. It’s so hard to tell them no. But all the money we made went to purchase more equipment, […] so now we have more than 30 bows [and] we’re about 35 [people in the club] consistently.”

According to Sures, movies like The Avengers and The Hunger Games have recently inspired a large number of students to become involved in the Archery Club. Regardless of whether someone is a beginner or a seasoned pro, the Archery Club opens its doors to anyone willing to have fun or seeking to be a part of a community.

“We’ve had some good archers come through us,” Sures said. “They actually weren’t archers to begin with. We trained them through our club and they became some of the top in the nation, so that’s exciting. Hopefully we’ll get some more too.”

The Archery Club draws a crowd looking to engage in a specific sport, but another similar club on campus is the Davis Historical Fencing Club. It was officially established five years ago, but when second-year entomology student Seiji Yokota joined, he took it upon himself to revive the club, dedicating time to recruitment, websites, social media, reserving practice space and partnering with an established fencing school in Sacramento.

“I started fencing in the style in my sophomore year of high school, and when I came to university I didn’t want to stop this,” Yokota said. “Davis had a club but the president didn’t want to continue so I basically took it up again.”

The Davis Historical Fencing Club is a martial arts and combat sport group that practices historical European martial arts. The club is specifically focused on Renaissance-German style fencing and practices saber fencing a couple days of the week. A few members, including Yokota, practice long sword fencing on Sundays and even participate in long sword tournaments hosted out of town on occasion.

“When beginning here I struggled with this idea of isolation […] so finding this club made everything great again,” said Lisette Landarverde, a second-year undeclared major and club treasurer. “I was nervous because I’ve always been an introverted, reserved person, but figured I had to do this and try to make it work and just show up. I never regretted it.”

Joining a club on campus can allow students to meet people from different fields of study who they would never have crossed paths with in a classroom setting.

The Formula Racing Team at UC Davis, for example, is a team of students who design and build an electric race car to the specifications given by the Society of Automotive Engineers and then compete in an annual competition. This community of students sounds like it should solely belong to engineers, but, in fact, the Davis team is made up of a diverse group of students.

“We’re very open to anyone,” said Colton Miles, a third-year mechanical engineering major and team manager of the club. “It’s not just engineering that we do, it’s business reports, design reports, cost reports, the operations of an entire team [means] there’s room for all majors. Right now there’s about about 30 dedicated people showing up every week.”

Like Sures with archery, Miles jumped into this club his freshman year with no prior experience. After splitting his time between the team and PR and events, he realized his strengths and interests lied in operations and management. Today, Miles dedicates at least twenty hours per week to the team as manager, but he loves every second of it.

“We enjoy it or else we wouldn’t do it,” Miles said. “It’s easy in Davis […] to feel like you’re all on your own. We work [together] every weekend. Sunday meetings are all day, but it’s a fun deal when you’re with your friends. A lot of the people on the team I’ve known for two to three years now.”

Another student who has made good friends through her club involvement is Hana Branigan, a fourth-year communication major and editorial director for Spoon University. This club is, as Branigan puts it, like a “food-y version of Buzzfeed.” The organization is worldwide with chapters at different university campuses with the mission to help the next generation eat more thoughtfully.

“It’s very millennial and personable and when you read [the posts] you feel like you get to know the writer […] because their personality comes out a lot,” Branigan said. “I fell in love and I love the writing and I love food. I’m really passionate about food and nutrition too, so it was a perfect combination of all of that.”

As a transfer student, Branigan was anxious about the social setting in Davis, a new environment so far away from her home in Southern California. In order to find a home on campus, Branigan played trial and error with many different clubs until she found a couple, including Spoon University, that allowed her to feel like she was an integrated part of the community.

I encourage transfer students to get involved in as many clubs as possible in the beginning. Don’t force it, but attend meetings that would be interesting,” Branigan said. “You never know what opportunities you’ll be thrown into, and some of these clubs will let you be integrated in the community and you’ll find your friends and you’ll feel like you’ve been here all four years.”

With 200 registered student organizations on campus, there is more often than not a club to suit everyone’s interests. And, if not, students can establish their own clubs around a common purpose or hobby.

“I definitely found a fantastic community of friends,” Sures said. “Davis is a huge campus, you have to make it small. So these clubs, like archery, is a great way to find your own niche in the campus and make your own space.”
Written by: Marlys Jeane — features@theaggie.org


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