The people who are most shocked by how much they enjoy Greek life are usually those who always thought to themselves, "Oh, I would NEVER join a sorority." Then they give rushing a go, are a new member of a sorority, and end up completely loving it. Personally, I was never strongly anti-Greek life; in fact, I had always wanted to rush a sorority. My mom was in a sorority when she was in college, and my brother and sister both regretted not joining Greek life at their respective schools. To me, it always seemed like a great social activity, combined with the opportunity to be involved in service through philanthropy.
Yet even though I had always been intrigued by the idea of Greek life, I am still amazed that rushing a sorority just over two weeks ago has changed my life so much already. Even though it has been a short time, I can already see changes in myself that I owe completely to rushing and beginning the new member process.
I spent my first semester of college figuring myself out — where I belonged on campus, what extracurricular activities I was most interested in and dedicated to (as I was "that freshman" who signed up for 100+ clubs during the activities fair), where I did my best work, and how to schedule and organize my busy days. I went through a pretty bad period of homesickness during my first two weeks. Crying myself to sleep every night because I just wanted to go home? Texting my mom all day every day? Nervously asking my siblings if it was normal for me to be feeling this way? Done, done, and done. I felt like I was having a hard time making friends — I had a couple of people with whom I was decently close, yet it seemed like everyone around me was already in their "groups" while I felt like I was barely meeting enough people to even have a chance at friendship. Yet all of a sudden, around the end of October, it happened: I was finally part of a "group" that I loved and had tons of fun with, and I felt so much happier.
But it was not until winter break that I realized that something still didn't feel right. In fact, not only did I realize that something wasn't quite right, I realized that I was so unhappy. When my long-distance boyfriend and I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for dinner, the conversation of course revolved around college. I listened to the three of them absolutely rave about college: how it is the best time of your life, how it is so much fun, and how much (for my sister and her boyfriend) they wish they could go back (and for my boyfriend, how excited he was to go back after winter break). I listened to all of them saying this, and thought to myself, "That's not how I feel at all." I realized that I felt completely lukewarm about college. Yes, I was doing phenomenally academically, and I loved my classes and my professors, and of course I was happy about that. But unlike my mindset in high school, I was no longer content with only being happy academically. I knew that college is where I am living; it's not just where I go to school, it's where I eat and sleep and have fun and have a life. Yet I didn't feel happy. At all. In fact, I realized that I was miserable. The day after we all met up for dinner, I woke up and promptly burst into tears upon realizing just how unhappy I was. Yes, I was so grateful for my friend group, but I still did not feel that I had as many close relationships as I wanted to have. What hurt the most was realizing that I did not have fun my first semester. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times that I went out to party. I am not implying that you need to go out and party to have fun, but for someone who enjoys going out to parties, I realized that for the vast majority of my weekends I had made the excuse that I had "too much work to do" to go out. As someone with a severe case of Type A personality (it's a blessing and a curse), I couldn't go out knowing I had so much work to do without feeling so guilty that I wasn't staying in doing homework that I couldn't even have fun. Truly, I didn't know how to force myself to balance work and play, and the fact that my boyfriend went out to his heart's content and was able to get ahead on his work only made me feel worse about the fact that I stayed in all the time and still ended up behind on work.
I'm going to be candid here and say that when I broke down crying during winter break, I honestly and seriously considered transferring. I texted my parents, my siblings, and my boyfriend about how I was so unhappy and felt that I needed to make the decision for myself to be where I would be happy. I started looking into transfer applications and transfer acceptance rates at schools I was interested in.
Yet, at the same time, I didn't want to transfer. I didn't want to leave my a cappella group, who was my second family; in fact, it was only with them that I felt truly happy and like I was having fun. It was with my a cappella group that I felt content with my college experience, and it was when I was hanging out with them on the weekends that I would think happily to myself, "This is what college is supposed to be like." I couldn't imagine leaving them. Sure, I could join a group at another school, but I knew that the bond and the family dynamic of my group was irreplaceable - unreplicable, really. I didn't want to leave my few close friends either; my bond with each of them was so special to me. They were the people I wanted to be friends with for life, not leave in the dust at "my old school." I didn't want to leave the wonderful academic environment and opportunities that Brandeis afforded me, all my wonderful professors that I loved so much, who I loved learning from and who I frequently quoted in my class notes because they were always saying something funny or interesting. And furthermore, I didn't want to be a transfer student. My first few weeks as a freshman were hard enough. I couldn't imagine starting all over at a new school technically as a sophomore but really as more of a freshman, unsure of who I am and where I belong, not knowing anybody and having to deal once again with my shyness when it would come to meeting new people. I didn't want to leave Brandeis per se; I wanted Brandeis to be the place where I felt happy.
I resolved at the end of break to go back to school with an optimistic attitude; rather than making the choice of transferring as a way to be happy, I was going to choose to be happy where I was. I was going to go into second semester with an open mind, and I was going to work on actively choosing happiness for myself rather than making the more responsible decisions that ultimately left me miserable; as a start, I was going to choose to be okay with going out at least one night of the weekend and staying in to do work the other night, or heck, going out both nights and being more productive during the day! By the end of winter break, I was actually super excited to go back and start afresh with the new semester in order to find personal happiness.
I knew that rushing a sorority would be a good idea; it would force me to socialize and go out with people I didn't really know, and it would get me out of my comfort zone. At the same time, I was super nervous. What if I had the same problem I always have, where I have a hard time really opening up to people until I've known them for awhile? Rush is only two weeks long, and I worried that that wasn't going to be long enough for me to become comfortable around all these girls I didn't know in order for me to open up enough for them to actually get to know me. What was it going to be like at frat parties that were rush events, where I didn't know anyone since I was basically rushing alone, without a close friend by my side as I would have preferred? I'm one of those people who gets anxious about meeting my friends in the dining hall for dinner; if I show up early I'll have to wait for them alone, but if I show up late I'll have to walk in alone not knowing where they are! That daily struggle was terrifying enough in and of itself — how was I going to handle being at a frat party by myself?!
Ultimately, I knew that the potential benefits of rushing far outweighed my socially anxious qualms about it. Even if I did not get a bid, I knew that rushing would be good for me solely for the fact of pushing me out of my comfort zone. So, in I went to Meet and Greek, endlessly repeating the self-affirmations I had recited in the mirror before leaving my room: "I am awesome — I just need to show that."
I was lucky to have known two sisters of the sorority I was interested in before rushing — we were all in the ballet company together, and I am so grateful to them for introducing me to sisters I did not know and just serving as a familiar presence in the oftentimes overwhelming environment that is a room full of 60+ girls that you don't know. One of them was at Meet and Greek, and as soon as I walked in she gave me a big hug and introduced me to a sister. I started talking with her, and I was absolutely blown away. I was amazed at how easy it felt for me to open up and be totally, authentically myself in front of her. I told her sheepishly about an article I had written that I was nervous she would have thought was really weird, but her response was, "Oh my gosh, that sounds awesome!" I was so shocked at how easy it was for me to carry on an extended conversation with this person who I had literally just met, without any awkwardness or desperately searching for some silly small talk to make. She introduced me to another sister, who introduced me to another sister, who introduced me to another sister. With all of them I felt so comfortable, so unafraid to guard my quirks and so unworried about being 100% myself. Quite literally, the sisters basically had to kick me and a few other potential new members out of the room because they had to clean up. I could have talked with them for hours on end, and I had just met them!
After Meet and Greek, all my worries about rushing had taken a back seat to my pure excitement to get to know all the other sisters. I was excited for the rush events not simply because they seemed fun in and of themselves (the mark of an excellent recruitment team), but because I wanted to meet all the other sisters and talk with them.
Rush week came and went. It was a whirlwind of excitement and sometimes overwhelming quantities of new names. When I got my pref, I was so excited. I had no clue what getting a "pref" actually meant, but I figured it probably meant that they liked me. Getting my bid was even better. It was surreal that I — shy, introverted, quirky little me with the weird sense of humor — had just been accepted by a group of girls that, for the first time, made me feel wholly at home at Brandeis.
Rushing a sorority opened my eyes to some of the hidden elements of my first semester of unhappiness that I hadn't been aware of enough to fathom into words. I realized that the reason I felt I didn't belong was because I could walk through the middle of campus and still feel as though I was on the outskirts of the campus culture, something which transcends the boundaries of any campus and its individual students. I went to a relatively small high school, with a graduating class of 275. Brandeis is not that big, and yet I felt as though there were so many people on campus that I did not know. I felt lost. In high school, even though I did not know everybody personally, I felt like everyone knew what I was about — people knew that I was smart and that I was on the kickline team and that I was in the a cappella group, and although none of those things defined me, it felt good knowing that everyone knew generally who I was. In college, I felt so disconnected. I saw all these people that I didn't know and thought to myself, "I do not know what they are about .. .and they can't possibly know what I am about." For me, this felt like potential friendships that were going unrealized because I did not know anyone outside of my friend group and the clubs I was in.
I've only been a new member of my sorority for just over a week, but already my life has changed so much for the better. The process of rushing taught me how to put my shyness and social anxiety aside and converse with people I don't know. Now I find myself able and eager to introduce myself to people I do not know in my classes when I sit next to them, whereas before I would just sit next to someone I did not know awkwardly for the whole semester, only knowing their name if the professor called on them. The process of bonding with my new member class has confirmed that I belong in my sorority. With every heart-to-heart (one-on-one bonding sessions between sisters), my love for my sorority and its members grows. I have learned from this process that it is not necessarily common likes and dislikes that create friendships; it is a common thread of personality that enables people to "click" and become close despite differences in major or extracurricular activities. I've realized that my new member sisters and I are able to bond because we share this common personality, and that reaffirms that yes, even with all my quirks and nerdiness and weird sense of humor, I belong in my sorority.
Already, being a part of a sorority has introduced me to so many people who I would have never met otherwise, and I am so excited to meet and become close with even more people as the new member process continues. Being a member of a sorority has made me feel so much more connected to my campus culture, because the bonds of Greek life truly do transcend the boundaries that traditional markers of student life can create. Although rushing a sorority has not been the sole reason for my newfound happiness this semester, I can absolutely say that rushing a sorority has contributed greatly to my happiness, more so than I can justly put into words. Now, I can say with utmost confidence that I have the happiness at my school that I had always dreamed of having, and I cannot wait for what the rest of this semester and future semesters have in store.