The Circus Act: Juggling Extracurriculars

Juggling extracurriculars can be hard, especially at Stuyvesant. Here, some students reveal how they handle it all.

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As the lengthy list of extracurriculars offered at Stuyvesant continues to grow, it’s easy to get lost in the jumble. The biggest dilemma for students is often simply picking which extracurriculars they want to fully commit their time to. With a plate full of homework, projects, and tests, it becomes even more difficult to juggle so many extracurriculars at once. Though this pressure can be overwhelming, some students have managed to balance schoolwork and extracurriculars almost seamlessly.

Junior Maya Dunayer, for one, is active in multiple extracurriculars, including Model United Nations (MUN), The Spectator, StuyLaw, and the Junior Economic Club of New York City. MUN in particular holds a special place in her heart because she has been participating in it since she was in seventh grade. “I've always loved Model UN since I started it, so that was kind of a no brainer for me once I got into high school,” she remarked. Dunayer was quick to find her place at Stuyvesant, especially because she already knew what she liked to do.

Similarly, sophomore Isabella Chow, who is a member of Stuyvesant Latin and Modern, had the same motivation for joining her extracurriculars. She explained, “I kind of grew up with dance, so coming to Stuy and seeing all the dance opportunities was really cool.” Dancing became a way to not only pursue her passions but also something that taught her skills necessary to create long-lasting relationships. “I learned a bunch about how to work with other people and realize that I’m not the only person in the crew,” Chow reminisced. By working in a group setting, she got the opportunity to understand how to listen to others and learn from them.

Senior Ethan Samuel Lin viewed extracurriculars slightly differently, interpreting them as an extension of his education. “I feel like you can get more experience through actually doing work with other people,” he said. “At school, everything is memorization, and there’s no real application of your learning.” Lin maintained this mindset throughout his four years of working in a lab at Cornell University, explaining that it was essential to his education. By prioritizing hands-on learning, he was able to perform surgeries on mice and discover two new rabies viruses.

Similar to Lin’s emphasis on interactive learning, freshman Eshaal Ubaid has not let quarantine prevent her from pursuing similar opportunities. She is currently a member of the Stuyvesant Math Team, an artist for the Indicator, and the head of the Be a Leader Association. Ubaid joined these clubs to strengthen her personal skills rather than to check a box on a college resume. “I know a lot of people like joining a lot of extracurriculars because it looks good on their college applications, but I genuinely want to be experienced in as wide of a variety of things as possible because I think that being well-rounded is an important quality,” she stated. In addition, Ubaid looked to forge close bonds with classmates, especially as she began high school amidst a pandemic. She mentioned that through the meetings the presidents of her clubs held to foster relationships between students, she was able to make many close friends.

Analogously, freshman Rebecca Bao, who is a member of the math team and the debate team, has introduced numerous extracurriculars to her schedule. Bao easily knew what her passions were after experimenting in middle school. She explained, “When I was in middle school, I participated in these teams already, so I really liked math and debate.” This prior experience made her transition to Stuyvesant extracurriculars much more seamless.

Bao has been attempting to look at remote learning in a positive light. She found that quarantine has allowed new technological benefits that would not have been used by clubs otherwise, such as webinars, Zoom meetings, and more social media interaction. “[There are] more opportunities in general to make it online since [there are] a lot of more websites [and] apps you could use,” she explained. Bao even recommended that students take advantage of the technological benefits to be more involved in clubs or classes in general. “I think that even if you're introverted, you should participate more [and raise] your hand, [use] Zoom features, and let people get to know you more,” she encouraged.

Because clubs offer opportunities for students to form friendships with each other, they are often the highlight of the Stuyvesant experience, and great memories and friendships are frequently made during extracurricular activities. This experience held true for Dunayer. Her fondest memories and best friends are all from her participation in Model UN. “[After] every session, [we’d] sit in a circle. People [bought] full pints of Ben and Jerry's and things like that, and [we’d] just talk about our day as a club and what went well. Everyone [was] there to support you. And I feel like that's one of my fondest memories,” she described. Model UN gave her a community to grow in and lean on. It is a place for her to be herself and know that there were people there to support her.

Managing both extracurriculars and schoolwork, though stressful, is possible. Dunayer recommended keeping track of every plan and every schedule. Though junior year can be a large burden, her strategies for effective time management keep her on top of her work. “I have a huge planner, and everything's scheduled by the hour because otherwise, nothing gets done. So it definitely needs a lot of discipline to keep up,” Dunayer explained.

Lin has a similar approach to managing his time. He believes that the key to sustaining a balanced schedule for himself while engaging in his extracurriculars is creating detailed to-do lists. “I write down all the things I need to do and all the ideas I have of what I should be doing and how I would do it,” he described. He elaborated that each assignment would be in a list, with the steps necessary to complete it written underneath.

However, some may find the challenge of joining many clubs isn’t balancing the schedule, but rather, simply getting started. It’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed when choosing an extracurricular. For students trying to find their place in Stuyvesant, Chow advised, “I would just recommend experimenting. And even if you're not a freshman […] you can still experiment with a bunch of the clubs. Then even if it’s senior year, maybe you’ll [still] find one club that you really, really like.”

Many students have learned to handle their rigorous schedules as well as find new ways to adapt to remote extracurriculars. Whether a club helps students pursue a passion, find a new one, or extend their education, they provide rewarding experiences that grow to be the core of a Stuyvesant education. Though balancing several extracurriculars at once can be difficult, students have found their own ways to embrace their ever-busy schedule and have discovered that the time spent juggling was completely worth it.