Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern’s “Unicycle Guy” finds community through hobbies

Tong+is+a+member+of+the+NU+Marching+Band+Color+Guard+and+founded+the+NU+Juggling+Club.
Elena Lu/The Daily Northwestern
Tong is a member of the NU Marching Band Color Guard and founded the NU Juggling Club.

It’s not unusual to find Ph.D. student Draco Tong unicycling to class or juggling on Deering Meadow. Tong, who studies transportation engineering, says his unique hobbies have enriched his post-secondary experience and helped him find a place in the Northwestern community.

Tong, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, began juggling in elementary school but became serious about the hobby after joining his high school’s juggling club. He also began unicycling and has continued to engage with those communities ever since.

Also a member of the NU Marching Band Color Guard and a frequent participant in Rubik’s Cube competitions, Tong said the pursuit of new skills and knowledge has been an important part of his life.

“I just like learning new things and finding things out,” he said.

Tong said he has wanted to create a juggling community at NU since he first arrived on campus. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, Tong was in a juggling club where he learned to perform interactive tricks.

He then went on to create the NU Juggling Club in 2023. In the long term, he said he hopes to see more juggling around campus.

Weinberg sophomore Iyla Baker, co-president of the NU Juggling Club, said the club began as a way to spend time with others while doing something fun.

“We recruited some people, just people walking by (Norris East Lawn), who were like, ‘Can I join?’” Baker said.

Baker and Tong foster a low-stakes, conversational environment for people who already know how to juggle as well as those who have never tried it before.

McCormick freshman Will Boyle, a new member of the NU Juggling Club, said Tong taught him how to juggle. He said he is now working on juggling four balls and clubs.

“We just chill and talk and learn how to juggle,” Boyle said. “It’s a fun thing to do to find community outside of my major.”

Tong said the community aspect of juggling is what appeals to him the most.

He said he loves the social interaction involved in juggling, particularly the collaborative elements like passing.

“It can really serve as an outlet to have some fun, focus on something and forget about everything else that’s happening, and just do something that looks really cool as well,” he said.

Tong said he has been encouraged by the quantifiable improvement in his juggling skills. He is currently working on juggling five pins and is teaching other students the basics of juggling.

By getting outside of his comfort zone with activities like juggling, Tong has found rewarding experiences. He encourages other students to do the same.

“It is uncomfortable at first, but over time … you get better at navigating the process,” he said. “You get better at learning, you get better at adapting.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_spears6

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