Navigate the First Look Fair

Photo by Alexandra Pamias

It seems as though overnight the mall in front of McKeldin Library will be transformed.  Big white tents spring up along the sidewalks, and tables will materialize, soon to be covered in posters, fliers and candy.  

If you thought this area of campus saw a lot of traffic before, prepare yourself for the First Look Fair September 17 and 18.  Leaving ten minutes earlier is enough to navigate through the crowds on the mall, but leaving even before that will allow time for distraction as the lure of free pens, drawstring bags and candy inevitably entices students to the tables. Some students spend an hour browsing all this campus has to offer. 

Behind these tables sit the students who run or participate in that particular club. Usually, you will need to talk to these students in order to walk away with candy, water bottles or whatever other paraphernalia you desire.

If there is a group you’re interested in “go with questions in mind,” sophomore environmental science and policy major Sammy Shultz said. “That way you understand what each thing is about.”

If you don’t feel like stopping to talk, it’s still a good idea to grab a flyer from the tables you are interested in.  Looking at these papers will both allow you to remember which groups caught your eye and contact said groups for more information.  

Some tables won’t give up their souvenirs solely at the expense of a conversation.  Many groups will want your email address in exchange.  While originally this might seem like the best way to get more information, it is often not the case.  Once an organization has your email, you often cannot stop them from sending you information about the club and meetings and events. This could carry on until you graduate or even after.  The best way to approach these tables is to create a separate email address before you go to the First Look Fair.  Give this email address to the groups that demand it, and let the wildlife club at Maryland, or whatever other group you don’t actually end up joining, spam that email for the next three years.

Not all students choose to join a club after the First Look Fair. “I’m just going to go to look around and see what would interest me. I’m probably not going to end up doing anything just because I have such a heavy course load,” sophomore biology major Jen Schmidt said.

While it is a great way to find new clubs and organizations to join on campus, the First Look Fair can easily be overwhelming.  Go with a friend, but don’t worry about getting separated if you have different interests.  The tables with the longest lines will usually have the best giveaways, such as the representatives for the University View, who last year handed out tank tops that were in high demand. However, some of the overlooked tables have great paraphernalia as well.  If you want to play ring toss with colored dildos for a rubber ducky, the Health Center’s tent is the place to visit.

“I’ve heard it’s a really good opportunity to branch out,” freshman government and politics major Jonathan Rosen said. “Look at everything. Don’t be narrow minded.”