At the start of the school year, new members join clubs all across campus, and what better way to welcome them than by passing down long-standing traditions? Initiations come in many different forms, but all are exciting nevertheless.

Earlier this month, I was initiated into Boomshaka, a performance group that combines dancing and drumming. Seven other new members and I were surprised with what we thought were symbolic buckets with our names on them. We were bursting with excitement. But after the initial surprise, we found out that the bucket wasn’t just a token of our acceptance in the group. Instead, for the next week until our first practice, we had to carry the bucket with us everywhere we went. The bucket came with me to class. It came with me down to the Lakefill. It even ventured into a frat party.

Everywhere I went, I was met with confused stares and lots of questions, but I was determined to make it through the week with the bucket by my side. Eventually, it even became a source of pride. I grew accustomed to its weight in my hand and people asking me why I was carrying it all the time. When the week came to an end, and I set my bucket down for the last time, I looked back fondly on my initiation week. I wanted to find out more about the Northwestern community’s experience with the joy of club initiations.

Members of Boomshaka the night the new members received their buckets. 

You can find that joy all throughout campus in every different type of club. McCormick senior Megan Miller, president of the Swim Club, told me about her memories being initiated into the club with a 6 a.m. dryland (that is, not in the pool) practice, followed by a team breakfast.

“I remember being so excited when I saw the sign on my door saying ‘Welcome to swim club⁠—see you at 6 a.m. dryland’ my freshman year,” Miller said.  

The practice and team breakfast are a great way for the members of the club to get to know each other after tryouts and bond over a tough workout.

“It’s really exciting to see everyone at the initiation dryland bond over memories of early morning high school swim practices,” she said. “It’s also always a lot of fun …[putting] signs on the doors of new members, and I love getting to know all of them.”

The club swim team at their first meet of the year. Photo courtesy of Megan Miller

The International Student Association, a group meant to build community among international students at Northwestern, welcomed new members with a dinner at an Arabic restaurant in Evanston.

Medill first-year Antonia Mufarech remembers the initiation fondly, saying “We were all sitting together at this huge table ... and got to learn about our different cultures and have really cool conversations.”

After the dinner was a karaoke party to unite the group further with some slightly embarrassing fun. Mufarech reflects, “People felt really comfortable with each other. It was really helpful for [unifying] the group as a whole.”

Weinberg first-year Liliana Sydorenko fondly recalls her initiation into a cappella group The Undertones. She described receiving a phone call requesting she come outside her dorm from an unknown phone number⁠—the caller claimed they were part of the National Acappella Association. Then she was surprised by Undertones members outside her dorm with hugs and signs, before being taken to Steak and Shake along with the other group “babies.” Additionally, each new member received a sweatshirt with the Undertones logo, passed down from an older group member in their voice part.

“We just take a bunch of pictures and enjoy [getting to know] each other,” Sydorenko said. “I’ve never smiled so much in one night! I was so excited to get into the a cappella group that I have idolized since freshman year of high school ... and they were just as excited as I was that I was there.”

The Undertones celebrating the arrival of new members at Steak and Shake. Photo courtesy of Liliana Sydorenko

From a cappella groups to sports teams, club initiations are crucial to welcoming new members to the group. In whatever goofy or surprising form they may come in, each tradition is passed down out of a love for the group. New members can look back on traditions fondly for years to come.