Sunday, January 30, 2011

Finding a Home Away From Home

It was my first week living on my own. I was born and raised in my hometown of Hutchinson, Kansas-population 30,000-and was suddenly thrust into the madness of a college town. As if the newfound homesick tears and nerves for school to start weren’t enough, I found myself pressured to join a sorority in the middle of Formal Recruitment week and I honestly didn’t know how the Greek system worked or why I wanted to be in one in the first place. Everything I knew about Greek life stemmed from movies like “Animal House” and “Sorority Row.” My family wasn’t Greek and I didn’t understand the point of it all.

Flash forward three weeks, when I was settled into my schedule, joined a few clubs and discovered the treasure that is Skype. I had everything lined up in my life scholastically, yet I couldn’t ignore the pang in my stomach as I watched a girl walk down Jayhawk Boulevard with Greek letters embroidered on her shirt. At the end of the day, I was still lonely and sad; worrying that I hadn’t picked the right school. Until one day I ran into a girl I knew from high school, Elle, proudly sporting the letters Alpha Gamma Delta. The whole Greek thing was sort of a sore subject for me, I had dropped out of Rush and everyone knew it, it seemed almost “scandalous.” Elle could tell that I wasn’t my usual perky self. I had slipped into a gloomy state of mind that wasn’t my usual effervescent radiance. She encouraged me to check out her sorority through something called Continuous Open Recruitment and she gave my name to the director of the program. I was leery, to say the least. I hadn’t had a good experience with formal recruitment’s intensity-everything had seemed superficial to me then. However, after almost a month on campus, I began to see why girls join sororities.

I loved Continuous Open Recruitment. I felt that I was wanted-that there were many, many qualities within me that were not only worthy of acceptance into a sorority, but celebrated and needed by that sorority. I found my home in Alpha Gamma Delta.

The funny thing is I did not “click” with AGD when I went through Formal. However, the second I went to a COR event it worked for me. The girls were so much more real. They had real majors, with real classes, and real problems and real friendship. I wanted to know these girls, I wanted to be their sister. In formal recruitment, everyone seemed like Barbies. COR is real life. I pledged and was then initiated into the sisterhood because of this program.

When time came for officer elections, I knew exactly what I wanted to run for. I had such a wonderful experience with COR that I wanted to grant that to other girls like me, as well. I ran for COR coordinator, and won co-chair with another sister, and the two of us have been a-rockin’ and a-rollin’. We started off the first week of school with a “3 Spoons for AGD” frozen yogurt meet-and-greet at which we had enough girls show up to nearly double my pledge class. I asked every friend I knew that wasn’t in a sorority; It was then that I heard from a girl that had dropped Formal Recruitment with me on the same day. I invited her to join in with COR and she told me that she wasn’t sure, now, if sorority life was actually for her, that she wasn’t even sure if she would be returning to KU next semester. However, she said it sounded fun and she’d give it a try because it was so low-key. Woah, De ja vu. It was then that I had an Oprah “Ah-ha! Moment.” I started looking at COR as a community service, rather than a necessity for my sorority. My goal shifted from supplying potential Alpha Gamma Delta sisters, to helping the girls that are currently suffering the same mindset I was just months before: Alone, doubting, and sad. This University is too big not to have someone to lean on, and in a sorority, you’re guaranteed a family of at least 80 girls.

I had my first “payment” for all my work with this program the other day. After the 3 Spoons event, I was tagged in a facebook status about what a “wonderful time” a girl had with the “beautiful ladies of AGD.” This came from a girl whom I would have never expected to say this. She used to be “anti-sororities”; she had moved from GSP to Hashinger Hall just a month prior to “escape” them, and here she is smiling because of an event that I had planned and the way my sisters had treated her as if she were a person of value. COR gets to give potentials a taste of the beauty that is a sorority.

Alpha Gamma Delta really changed my life. It took a sorrowful, homesick little girl and blossomed her into a shining, confident woman. I was at the right institution all along, I just needed a support system there by my side. I made myself one of those embroidered Greek Lettered t-shirts, more friends than I can count, and 4.0 last semester. I owe it all to the Panhellenic System and my beautiful, intelligent, supportive, fun, graceful women that I am so proud to call my sisters.

- Caitlin is a freshman Alpha Gamma Delta, majoring in Journalism

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