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A cappella groups and clubs give grad students a break from academics

Meryem Ok, a first-year medical student, could never find time for extracurricular activities during her undergraduate years. She said she was so focused on the academics that some interests, such as singing, had to fall to the wayside.

After entering the UNC School of Medicine, she finally found her time to sing through the only graduate a cappella group at UNC, the MedUNCedoos.

“When things get really crazy busy in med school, it’s nice to have a two-hour chunk of time in the week where you don’t have to think about school,” Ok said.

Ok, the administrative co-president, said the interactions with older students and sense of community make it a valuable addition to her graduate experience.

“You overhear experiences people have day to day whether in their clinic or rotations or just in life,” Ok said.

While groups like the MedUNCedoos provide a break from academics, other graduate extracurricular activities— like career clubs in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA program — put the focus back on school.

Evan Fairmont, a second-year MBA student, said he has been heavily involved in some of these groups such as the Consulting Club and the Net Impact Club. Fairmont works to connect corporations with students, including planning treks to different firms.

“People view those clubs as an incredibly important resource when we are looking for internships and then full-time opportunities,” Fairmont said.

Fairmont is also involved in other extracurricular groups in Kenan-Flagler such as the MBAdventures club that plans excursions like kayaking and skiing for MBA students.

“Taking a break to go kayaking is a great way to relax and, you know, get rid of some of the stress,” said Fairmont, who previously served as the MBAdventures president.

Timothy Smith, a second-year MBA student, said he has also found himself in both the activity and career clubs.

Extracurricular activities create a more well-rounded educational experience for graduate students. Many are trying to progress their careers and gain skills that will increase their employability.

“I got out of business school what I wanted to, like a new better job that was more interesting than what I was doing before,” Smith said.

Smith is involved in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Corporate Finance, Tennis and Wine clubs — but his primary involvement has been with the UNC Kenan-Flagler Pride Club, which is about to host their second annual Drag Ball.

“People from the drag community from the greater Chapel Hill-Raleigh area come and show us how it’s done, and then we pretend like we can do it well,” Smith said.

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