Extracurricular Activities at Education City Amid the Pandemic

Jehad Al-Hallaq, Staff Reporter

(Photo/ NU-Q)

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and suspension of in-person classes in March 2020, some student clubs across different Education City universities have shifted their activities to suit the online sphere, while others have suspended their activities for the time being.

For many clubs, such as the Palestine Student Club at Northwestern University in Qatar, adapting to the pandemic was a must. “Not operating would not do any good. Now that university is online, many people feel demotivated. We hope that our events might provide a distraction for what’s going on,” said Lujain Assaf, vice president of the Palestine Student Club. 

The club’s activities have changed a lot with the shift to the online sphere. “Before, we mainly used our social media to promote our in-person events. Now we have started to make events on our social media as a way to engage with the community,” Assaf said, adding, “The main challenge we faced is in creating events that aren’t just webinars. We knew we needed more engaging and light-hearted events that people could participate in.”

Other clubs, however, chose not to continue operating amidst quarantine restrictions. “The reason I decided to suspend activities was due to the fact that dance is a physical activity and the whole point of the club was to be able to teach students how to dance any dance form they wanted to learn. It was about having weekly workshops and calling professionals in, as well for ballroom dancing or hip-hop or whatever it was that the students were interested in,” said Safoura Usmani, president of the Raqs Club in Georgetown University in Qatar. 

Usmani added that although they could upload videos and practice dance online, the point of the club was to have a community get together every week to de-stress through dancing. “Since the studio where we held practices in our university is out of bounds and students are also cautious due to COVID-19 we were unable to continue,” she said. Nevertheless, Usmani says, she is hopeful for the future, “fingers crossed that this all ends soon, and we can go back to being able to make the most out of the club.”

Despite the obvious logistical challenges posed by the pandemic, new extra-curricular clubs continue forming at EC universities. The president of the newly formed African Student Association at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Mathuso Molapo, said, “The challenges we faced include having to advertise properly and getting people to actually attend events and engage because of zoom fatigue and also trying to figure out the logistics of searching actives while doing them online which would’ve been easier in-person.” 

 Indee Thotawattage, student life specialist at Northwestern University in Qatar and student clubs’ advisor, said the virtual shift “gets club leaders to pause, reflect on their club missions, re-strategize and reprioritize what’s important to them.” Clubs often get caught up in doing so many events, and although in-person events are missed, the online sphere might give clubs the chance to focus on other aspects, she added. “Perhaps these current circumstances lend club leaders the opportunity to revert their attention to their club members, check-in on the internal dynamics of the club, and better prepare for future semesters.”

Thotawattage encouraged club leaders to get creative and innovative: “Look around online and see what student clubs around the world are up to. Move away from Zoom, think of engaging asynchronous content and share original content on the club’s social media platforms.” 

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