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By Shannon Lee

Before I stepped foot onto the UCI campus, I essentially lived in a “bubble” that my parents invented in order to keep me on-task and focused with my studies. Being under parental guidance for 17 years definitely motivated me academically, but it did not necessarily allow me to understand that there are many other opportunities and experiences that I have yet to even hear of.

When I came to UCI as a freshman two years ago, I felt immersed in  everything  the various campus organizations had to offer at the Anteater Involvement Fair. However, I still felt very inclined to focus mainly on academics and pre-med organizations. For the past two years, I needed to follow a certain predefined “formula” to get into medical school, and all of my focus was put into reaching that goal.

Now that I’m halfway through my college career, I can definitely say I’ve enjoyed all of the things I’ve done in my academic organizations.  I’ve also recognized that there will never be a perfect time to try out for sports or join more recreational clubs. As a result, I’ve only just begun to  recognize the importance of getting more involved. It was time to dive deeper into my own personal interests instead of my academic ones.

With this mindset, I entered the Anteater Involvement Fair with the hopes of not only advertising for the organizations that I was already part of, but also keeping an ear open for what else was being offered.

Within the mayhem of smiling students popping out of nowhere and passing out colored flyers, it was the passionate set of dance crews with their well-rehearsed performances center-stage that grabbed my attention. During each set, it seemed like the music brought these dancers to a foreign land where they could express themselves as much as they wanted. What they were showing was only a small part of that liberation.

Amongst all the chatter and elevator pitches frequented among most, if not all of the booths, the dance organizations had something different.  They told us what their group was all about  not through a 20 second speech, but through performance.

As someone with practically no dance experience, I have very limited knowledge about the dance community and how one may get involved. As such, I decided to explore my new interest this past week in order to get better insight into the process. Intimidated by the high-quality performances and talent, I was initially a bit shy to approach them at the Anteater Involvement Fair. Two days later, I found the booth on Ring Road, filled with countless Common Ground posters. I figured it was now or never. This was the best time to approach with my questions at hand.

All I knew about Common Ground was that they were a dance crew, but when  I walked up and introduced myself, I felt as if I was already welcomed into the dance community.

I fired away question after question  to Matthew Sharpe, a third-year at UCI who has been part of the team since his freshman year. He answered my questions about the logistics of the practices, the audition process and the background behind the creation of Common Ground. While he continued to give more information about an organization he put  so much of himself into, I glanced around at the close-knit team that shared handshakes and were in a world of their own as they went along with the beat from their music box.

I must have been only half-listening to what Sharpe had to say, because even as I felt welcomed by Sharpe and their other Common Ground members,  I could not help but notice the energetic and bubbly dancers from other groups welcome themselves under the Common Ground tent. While it  seemed to me like Common Ground was  separate from the numerous other dance groups originally,  at the end of the day they were all part of a larger community dedicated to a unique and exciting style of performance.

My presence at the Common Ground Booth for those mere 10-15 minutes allowed me to have a better understanding of why I was initially so amazed and drawn to the dance community. Although they have designated practice times, the dance community showed me that Common Ground was more than just people who meet up at X time on Y day each week. There was a sense of warmth that I didn’t feel in many of the other organizations that I looked into. The members of Common Ground were not trying to entice me, or prove to me that they were better than all of the other dance crews. Instead, they told me that no matter what amount of experience I had, I could still venture into the realm of the dance community — the door was always open.

I’m not exactly sure if I will pursue my interest in the dance community, but I am glad that I was able to see a different niche of people at UCI that I may be interested in.

At first, it can be quite difficult to venture out the common “pre-med” formula and explore other interests, but this is the best time to do so, and two years from now, I want to ensure that I am more than a biology student. I hope to venture off into all that UCI holds so that two years from now, I leave with no regrets, but only memories.

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