Editor's note: A previous version of the article mistakenly referred to Collegiate Curls as Collegiate Courage.
Attending a college with 24,000 students has its perks (cue giant stadium games and various career opportunities), but trying to find a way to make a big school smaller leads to drowning in interest meetings and thousands of club flyers. On top of that, how do you find ones that match your interests? While broader, more recognizable organizations exist on campus, such as Student Government or Mountaineering Club, so do smaller, more niche clubs.
Balanced Beauty president and founder Anari Price found that the best way for her to get involved with something she was passionate about was by creating it.
“I founded this club back in September of 2020,” Price said. “The club is a minority skincare, wellness and mental health organization. We pretty much just want to create another safe space for minority men and women and be able to tackle and deal with their insecurities.”
Price was inspired by other minority-focused organizations on campus, but none of these groups seemed to tackle the skincare and wellness area that she found herself drawn to.
“I noticed we didn’t have a skincare aspect of a club here — we have Collegiate Curls that focuses on natural hair — so I really wanted to bring something new that we all could relate to,” Price said.
Balanced Beauty’s meetings cover all different topics involving skincare, mental health and personal wellness. One that stood out to Price was when members experimented to find their skincare routine.
“We all did an experiment where we cleaned our faces off with wipes and tried different natural products, like yogurts and different things, and watched to see how our skin reacted. From there we found out our skin types,” Price explained.
The club’s dynamic is extremely close, with all members being comfortable enough to open up and speak about different issues involving mental health or wellness. Also, by being a minority-based club, they are able to connect to one another in even deeper ways. Spaces like these are integral to campus to ensure that all students at UofSC have a sense of community. Price came in with an idea, and eyes on the prize for finding a close-knit community for her to pour her heart into.
“Freshman year, I came in determined as a first-generation student to get involved as much as I could and make my impact here at this huge campus and leave my legacy,” Price said.
Neha Arunprakash, the founder of the UofSC Bharatanatyam Dance Club, also wanted to create an organization she was passionate about.
“Natyam is a short form for Bharatanatyam, which is a classical dance from southern India. They used to dance it in temples, and they teach students and kids the stories of Hindu culture. Now it’s more modernized and you can dance to any kind of music, but it’s usually mixed or pure classical,” Arunprakash said.
“I learned for 12 years, since I was eight or nine, and I graduated last year… I had an idea when I came [to UofSC] but I started the process of creating the club in January of 2022. I finally got it confirmed and approved by March of 2022,” Arunprakash said.
While other schools in surrounding states have a competitive team, Natyam Club is not competitive.
“A lot of these students who learn Bharatanatyam, it’s a whole process that takes about five to twelve years,” Arunprakash said. “It’s basically like school but for dance, and you have to graduate from it to be a Bharatanatyam student.”
Natyam Club is full of people who have been taking Bharatanatyam for years, and others who haven’t done it before at all.
Mondays are dedicated to learning the dance, while Wednesday practices are rehearsal days. Arunprakash spent her summer choreographing the dances for the club to learn this year. “We’re working towards a showcase right now, so we have a total of eight dances to complete,” Arunprakash said.
Creating dances is rewarding, but Arunprakash finds that club members adding their own parts to the choreography makes it fun and interactive, and is a great way for them to grow as a team.
“Our special dance is a folk dance,” Arunprakash said. “For me, I don’t like to be constricted and controlled, so I gave the girls an opportunity to just come up with choreo. That gave them joy because everyone got to put something into it.”
Two other club presidents, however, found an environment where they thrived in a club already established at UofSC. Justin Land of the Jiu-Jitsu and Judo Club came in with little experience, but is now the president.
“My first job through high school was actually as a trainer at a kickboxing gym, so I’ve done some martial arts stuff, but finding the club [on campus last year] was the first time I had actually done jiu-jitsu,” Land said.
Land's job as president involves administrative duties, such as planning, leading practices and bringing in instructors.
“Most of the time, we have our instructors come in and we’ll lead some sort of warmup. Then we’ll do line drills for things that are more jiu jitsu specific, so we’ll practice different rolls and a break fall, and some other movements we do a lot. Once we’ve done that, we’ll turn it over to the instructors and we’ll drill whatever techniques they have planned for the day,” Land said.
The last 30 minutes of practice at the club are used for ‘live rolling’ or sparring using what they had just learned. The club itself is tight-knit, consisting of around 30 members.
“[The environment] is really relaxed and laid back. We’ll joke and crack up the whole time. It’s a lot of fun, and everybody gets to know each other. It’s kind of rude to choke somebody out without asking their name first,” Land joked.
Another club president, Maxwell Stuckey of the Nippon Anime Society of Heavenly Imagery Club, more commonly known as NASHI, found a way to make campus smaller with his interest in anime.
“Club goes for three hours," Stuckey said. "Mainly, we watch anime. We vote on what to watch every month, and about every so often we have special events. We have a flea market day where we will bring in our anime merchandise and sell it. Pretty much every meeting, for anyone who doesn’t want to stay and watch, we have a game room where everyone hangs out and plays tons of video games."
Stuckey found the club after transferring last year, and the connections he made kept him coming back.
“I transferred from Savannah College of Arts and Design [SCAD] last year and I had heard there was an anime club, so I just went to [a meeting] and instantly made friends,” Stuckey said. “I was super reserved when I first went here because it was a new school, but I found several best friends- one of whom is my roommate now,” Stuckey said.
NASHI is different from other clubs in a few ways, but one that stands out is the casual aspect that members enjoy.
“[The dynamic] is different- we’re a casual club, so we don’t require people to come a certain amount of times; people can just kind of come and go,” Stuckey said. “A lot of us who come more often are tighter with each other and know each other better.”
Stuckey found NASHI as his place to open up and find people with similar interests as him — it was a way to make a big school smaller.
“It helped me get out of my shell a little bit. I wanted to do that for someone else,” Stuckey said, “And I’m glad I did.”