As an international student from the United Kingdom, my awareness of Greek life and its presence on U.S. college campuses was limited to the highly stereotypical portrayals found in films such as “Legally Blonde” and “Bad Neighbors.” While certain aspects of these portrayals were definitely appealing (Elle Woods will forever be my queen), other scenes were frankly terrifying. So, of course, I couldn’t wait to find out for myself.
In the months leading up to my arrival at Stanford, I began asking questions about the nature of Greek life on campus, attempting to ascertain whether this should be a part of my Stanford experience. In general, the response went as follows: a deep sigh, followed by an exaggerated roll of the eyes and a stream of impassioned, yet somewhat vague reasons why I should not join a Greek organization. After a handful of these exchanges, I started to get the message: Greek life was obviously a very bad thing and was not meant to be for me. I let my Delta Nu dreams drift to the back of my mind and turned my attention to making the most of my frosh experience.
But as spring quarter rolled around, an aesthetically pleasing email landed in my inbox from the Stanford Inter-Sorority Council, signaling the arrival of the 2018-19 formal recruitment period. I couldn’t help but be a little intrigued. Surely attending an information session wouldn’t hurt? After all, they were offering free cupcakes. Throughout the year, I had begun to hear murmurings from fellow students about their experiences in Greek life, and I was beginning to wonder whether my discussions prior to arriving at Stanford about joining a sorority had been somewhat misleading. This was my chance to find out.
As it happened, I did decide to register for formal recruitment, and waited with a mix of eager anticipation and abject terror for the weekend. During the time formerly referred to as “rush,” I would present myself to seven of Stanford’s sororities and, through a process of mutual selection, would (hopefully) end up finding my sisterhood. In the days leading up to recruitment, I was warned that this was likely to be one of the most physically and emotionally draining experiences of my life and to expect “actual hell.” I had to continuously remind myself why I was putting myself through such a grueling process — to expand my friendship networks and challenge myself to try something new. Still, little could be done to ease my anxiety.
In addition to the overall intimidating nature of the experience, I worried about how I would physically navigate the process as a full-time electric wheelchair user. The weekend was set to involve a fair amount of traveling between campus locations under very strict time constraints. Rooms would be literally bursting with the sheer number of people in attendance. Crowded rooms aren’t always my favorite places, especially since I occupy a significantly greater amount of space as it is. I also worried that, since I’m not able to raise my voice in noisy environments to make myself heard, my conversations with sorority members (upon which my fate as a participant in Greek life rested) would be limited to a set of awkward mimes and amateur lip-reading at the very best.
However, I quickly learned that these completely valid concerns needed concern me no more. Before recruitment officially began, I was contacted by my Rho Gamma, a temporarily disaffiliated sorority member assigned to impartially guide Potential New Members (PNMs) through recruitment. She helped arrange my process so that a member of the team would be available to support me with getting from venue to venue throughout the entire process. It was also arranged that my conversations with existing sorority members (or interviews) would take place just outside the usual designated room, away from the noise, so that I could have meaningful interactions and make myself heard.
As a result, and to my complete surprise, I found the whole weekend to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It was definitely exhausting, and my lungs physically ached after so much talking each night. But ultimately, I came away feeling enriched by the conversations I had and increasingly excited about the prospect of joining one of these groups of inspiring women. Due to the nature of the process, some level of rejection is inevitable, and that can certainly sting. But having entered with an extremely open mind, I found the negatives to be outweighed by the positives. In my conversations, I felt able to delve beyond the superficial and have meaningful discussions about what matters to me. I relished the opportunity to meet countless new people, each of whom has their own stories to tell.
I was informed on numerous occasions throughout the weekend that Stanford’s sorority recruitment process is much more relaxed than the approach taken by “Southern schools,” so I can’t comment on the nature of Greek life as a whole. However, based on my personal experiences with this community at Stanford in this relatively short amount of time, I really am loving it. I have been welcomed into a community of supportive, diverse and driven women who are united by their shared values of philanthropy, scholarship and sisterhood, and I just can’t wait to see where this new and exciting journey takes me.
Contact Tilly Griffiths at tillykg ‘at’ stanford.edu.