Survivor: UConn is a club that brings group challenges from the hit reality TV show Survivor to the college campus. Photos courtesy of Ryan Grande.
Sometimes college can feel like a game of survival. You’re trying to figure out the right move to make, who to trust and how to make it to the next stage.
That’s why fifth-semester statistics major Ryan Grande founded Survivor: UConn last fall. He loved the CBS show “Survivor” and thought that the show’s challenges and group dynamics could transfer nicely to a university setting.
“We emulate the same parts of the show,” Grande, who is also president of the club, said. “You vote people out, you strategize, you socialize, you compete in competitions that we put together on a budget and basically you have a lot of fun.”
Though Survivor: UConn takes place on a college campus and not a beach, Grande said that the college version of the game truly does simulate the experience of the reality TV show. There’s fun competitions for players to take part in as well as tribal council meetings where players vote others out. UConn players have to strategize and make the right connections to advance in the game.
Grande himself hosts the show. He also films the competitions, player interviews and tribal councils and posts completed hour-long episodes to the club’s YouTube channel Survivor UConn.
“We put together an edited product and then contestants not only get to compete and play and be a part of this fun experience, but they get to see others—what they were thinking, how they played the game—and they get to see like a[n] edited product that resembles an actual TV show,” Grande said. “Although we’re doing it on a budget . . . we do the best we can, and contestants have a lot of fun and like seeing themselves in an edited show.”
Survivor: UConn usually has about 15 to 20 members per semester, Grande said, noting that it is the ideal size for a competition like this. They’re broken into groups and are tasked with competing in weekly challenges which can range from tests of endurance to gross eating challenges to some “touchy subjects.”
“We have a challenge called Touchy Subjects where…we ask questions like ‘Who do you think is the strongest player?’ [and] ‘Who [would you least like] to be on a deserted island with?’” Grande said. “So just questions that get you to know about your fellow competitors and get you to think about what your place in the game is.”
While some challenge a player’s candor, other challenges can be more physically taxing. In one such challenge, Grande said that cups of water were attached to a string and then placed on a ledge above players’ heads. The other end of the string was attached to players’ wrists, and they had to keep their hand raised as long as possible so that the cup on the other end wouldn’t tip over.
Some of the gross eating challenges were also stand-outs in Grande’s memory. Previous gross eating challenges include Spam, capers and sauerkraut and (everyone’s favorite) baby food with small chunks of beef mixed in. Grande said that players described it as “‘really cold soup with very unpleasant chunks in it.’”
Though some of the challenges can be a little wacky, Grande says that players generally have a good time and treasure the interesting experience of Survivor: UConn.
“I don’t think there’s such a unique competitive club on campus,” Grande said. “It’s a really competitive organization, it’s a really social organization, it’s really unique, and I think you’re going to get an experience unlike any other.”
Students can contact Survivor: UConn at email@example.com.
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.