Three AU wellness clubs that can bring back the sense of community on campus we’ve all been missing

Clubs with fun activities if you’re already feeling burnout from school and are looking to keep yourself active and healthy

Three AU wellness clubs that can bring back the sense of community on campus we’ve all been missing
AU’s community garden in all its summertime vibrancy

With the school year underway and students readjusting to life back on campus, it’s important to find time for activities that allow us to check in with ourselves and our well-being. 

Students’ minds are in overdrive balancing readings and papers, as well as increased face-to-face interaction, which can be draining after a year and a half of Zoom classes. These three clubs on campus have exactly what students need to learn to be present and connect more meaningfully with their American University peers.

The AU Community Garden, AU Outdoors and AU Meditation Club all recognize the entwinement of mind and body, and the ways in which physical activity can help mitigate stress from daily life.

School of International Service senior Sydney Spencer, president of the AU Community Garden, welcomes all to “garden days,” which are every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. You don’t have to be a master-level gardener to attend, in fact, Spencer emphasizes how the garden is a space where people shouldn’t feel intimidated.

“The garden is a reflection of life, so there’s some stray weeds, or a wilting plant that has yet to be tended to,” Spencer said. “Not everything looks perfect and beautiful.” 

Different from the social media trends we’ve all become accustomed to scrolling past, the garden is a space where people can be imperfect. 

One of the ways Spencer said she remains grounded is through the weekly reflection exercise that’s become a ritual at the beginning of each gardening day. Spencer encourages students to take a walk through the garden and notice things that have changed since their last visit. These five minutes of introspective time can allow visitors to see themselves manifested in the plants around them. 

This is how one gardener decided to spend their reflection time

When feeling frustrated, try stopping by the garden and pull out a few weeds.

“Pulling out something that’s not supposed to be there can be really comforting and meditative,” Spencer said. 

Check out the club’s Instagram page to see a list of rules and guidelines ahead of your visit.

Another way to stay active is to get involved with AU Outdoors. AU Outdoors regularly goes on hikes in Rock Creek Park, only a few stops away on the Metro. Vice President Cora Ferguson, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said accessibility is important to the club members. 

Look inside the Luray Caverns in VA where AU Outdoors had a trip Fall of 2019

“It can be an activity that’s not super accessible, especially by yourself, especially as a young college woman,” Ferguson said. “By myself, I’m not exactly going to go on a hike.” 

For Ferguson, AU Outdoors helps to mitigate stress by giving opportunities to do activities outdoors in a community. 

According to Ferguson, AU Outdoors aims to do one formal event a month with other less formal activities, such as the hike in Rock Creek Park, happening more frequently. Their current hope is to do a kayaking trip in October, a rock climbing trip in November and an ice skating trip in December. For more information on upcoming events, students can follow AU Outdoors’ Instagram

Similar to the AU Community Garden, AU Meditation only got its start in 2020. With the presence of the coronavirus pandemic, AU Meditation recognized the need, now more than ever, to help students at AU get into the practice of meditation.

Club representative An Nguyen, a graduate student in the Kogod School of Business, emphasized how the time she spends with AU Meditation, practicing mindfulness, has been incredibly helpful in her ability to do work. 

“One big benefit I’ve noticed when I practice meditations is that when I get back to my studies, I can pay more attention to what I read during sessions,” Nguyen said.

For those who might be intimidated at the prospect of sitting still, Nguyen encourages movement meditations. The AU Meditation club has multiple movement meditation opportunities, including the walking meditation they host regularly. For newcomers, Nguyen recommends going barefoot so you can truly be one with the Earth.

At the end of the day, these clubs are all about doing something for yourself that’s fun. Sometimes it’s important to prioritize activities that don’t have a material output but are just about caring for your body and self. If you’re experiencing stress, a frustrating social situation, or unneeded mental discomfort, try out these clubs — they may have just what you need. 

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