Article by freelancer Lauren Haffner
Change is never easy, especially during a pandemic. A new school, a new state and a new group of people awaited University of Maryland student Clare Daly. The now sophomore from Chicago said she didn’t know anybody before arriving on campus as a freshman.
Daly said she discovered CHAARG, an empowerment-based fitness club, through social media after the then treasurer messaged her on Instagram. From there, Daly found her way into the community when she attended her first virtual event.
The transition back to in-person activities allowed Daly to enhance the Zoom relationships she formed in CHAARG. She said being in person this school year has amplified the friendships CHAARG provided her.
CHAARG tries to provide a sense of togetherness for its members despite the isolated atmosphere and limited resources on campus. The weekly workouts and small group activities help members make friends, CHAARG President Julia Glasgow said.
Daly said the loneliness she experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic was always cured by CHAARG. She knew she could connect with other members through Zoom calls. The conversations consisted of anything from homework to an analysis of The Bachelor.
Daly called the program a “backbone” for the beginning of her college experience. She described the people as “very accepting” and “radiating positivity.” Group chats for bonding, small group workouts and opportunities to connect with others further fostered friendships for Daly.
“It’s great to have that in-person contact. Literally, just eye contact is so important. And just being in a room with people is just so much better for emotions and mental health,” Daly said.
Glasgow, a marketing and operations management and business analytics major, has been involved with CHAARG since the first semester of her freshman year. She explained being virtual was difficult at first for the fitness organization.
While weekly workouts and social events still took place over Zoom, Glasgow admitted the virtual aspect was a bit awkward.
Despite the challenges, there were still positive outcomes. Glasgow explained CHAARG hosted calls over the summer. She said the pre-campus conversations proved to be beneficial for members.
“We received a lot of positive feedback about how that just eased people’s anxiety, talking to people who have experience on campus and have experience actually being here,” Glasgow said.
When sophomore Grace McCord joined CHAARG, she was worried she would have to play catch up. The French and government and politics major joined the club during the second semester of her freshman year. From the start, McCord said the environment was “wonderful” and like she “had been there the whole time.”
The ability to still engage with other members online introduced McCord to lots of different girls. She added that she would have never met some of her friends without CHAARG. McCord said the organization helped her create her “own little community.”
“You make the most amazing friends in CHAARG. You absolutely do,” McCord said.