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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

New Hobbies I've Picked Up At College

College wouldn't be college if I didn't discover some new things that I like doing. In my case, I was pretty stuck on the ones I already knew I liked, for example, singing/playing the ukulele, baking, and drawing.

But I recently picked up on three new things! They are chess, going to the gym, and salsa dancing. I know those are three very different things. But they've all piqued my interest one way or another!

Here is a little bit about how I got into them...


I've never been a serious player of chess, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it! I was even a part of the school chess club when I was in Grade 5, but I had a pretty bad experience there. The scariest teacher in the Junior School was the staff in charge of running the club. That didn't really matter, until one day, a group of students didn't clean up after themselves at the end of chess club. I mean, yes, it's not good practice to leave your mess behind, but then again, it was chess club. There's not a lot of 'mess' you can leave behind when you only have chess pieces and a board.

The group of children who did that didn't plead guilty, and that's when the scary teacher's patience snapped. He assigned detention to all of us. To this day, I still don't think was fair of him to do that. There were many ways to figure out who it was who made the mess, but instead, he went for the route of punishing children who had nothing to do with it just because they were there at the time, innocently playing chess. This was my first and last detention ever. During the hour I was standing in the corridors for something I hadn't done, I seethed for reve- Nah 😂, I just thought it was unfair and got a little upset. But that incident stuck with me for a while and made me avoid chess because of that negatively associated memory.

Back to the present day! Since I had Sho, who is a National Master in chess, by my side, I couldn't help but be influenced by his passion for the game. It started out by following him to the community chess club in the Ville out of interest. Then, I really enjoyed a game or two with the people there. The next thing I knew, I was getting bite-sized lessons on endgames from Sho, learning new jargon used in chess, and ultimately, making new, happy memories related to chess. I'm so glad I had that turn-around because it would've been really sad if I had to live my whole life not wanting to get to know how fun chess is because of what happened a long time ago.

Going to the gym:

I might have mentioned this elsewhere, but over the past few years, I became more active and started to enjoy exercising. However, I would refuse to go to the gym because I felt exposed, and my ferocious competitiveness made it hard for me to focus just on what I was doing instead of what others were doing. It's also quite a hassle to get into your sports gear and go down to the gym, no matter how close it is to your house. So for a while, I stuck with doing fitness at home, with my own setup.

And I would have continued to do so if it weren't for the fact that at college, there was no way that I could do intense fitness training in my dorm. Not only was it a tad bit small, but also, I had my roommate to think of. I didn't want her to have to go through the pain of trying to study while I was sweating profusely.

There was no real reason to avoid going to the gym -- the facility at Swarthmore is very good. So I made up my mind and went over there (with a friend for moral support). And it turned out to be pretty fun! When I did workouts at home, I didn't have the luxury of treadmills, ellipticals, and other strength-training machines. This was a whole new upgrade from what I did before. Although it took me some time to adjust to the new machines, I had a routine set pretty quickly after I started going there.

The only thing I wish was a more prominent feature is a place to do some body weight/mat work. Right now, the only place you can do that is in the corner of the fitness center, which is not enough room when more than 3 people are trying to use the space. There is a dance floor upstairs, but a lot of scheduled workout events happen there, and then I'm not allowed to do my own thing.

Salsa dancing:

Every time I tell people from my high school or ones that knew me from the past that I'm learning salsa reacts with wide eyes and a surprised, "You do salsa?" as if there is no way that I could be doing such an outlandish activity. Sure, I wasn't one to go around dancing my night away, but I always had a knack for rhythms, and I loved Latin dance music.

So when I came to Swarthmore, one of the first things I did was sign up for salsa club. There were other choices -- swing dance, tango, etc, etc. But I loved the music of salsa and to be honest, tango's dramatic moves sort of scared me.

Every Thursday, I now go dance for about an hour and a half, and it is the best stress buster. When I sway and twirl to the song, I feel as if I'm in a movie. And it's such a good way to meet people who I wouldn't have met if I were to just stick to my usual things. From freshmen to seniors, I get to meet so many new people who are united with one common interest: salsa. It's a wonderful feeling every time we switch partners (we have a system where the 'followers' rotate so that the dancing duo is always a fresh mix) when I get to hear about fascinating things going on in different people's lives -- all the while we're dancing!

The instructor is such a nice guy and an amazing dancer. I realized a crucial part of salsa dancing is to have a partner (especially if they're leading) who really knows what they're doing. Even though there are some bumps along the road, the people at the salsa club are really good at picking up new moves and even experimenting with new combinations based on what we've learned. I always end up waiting for the next week of salsa club when it ends.

All in all, I'm so glad I found these new hobbies since it's helping me broaden my horizon when it comes to skills outside of classes. It's a great way to get to know more people, too!

hobbies I've picked up at collegenew

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