Rebecca Dubow | Recreating community
I haven't regretted my choice to become a sister
February 8, 2013, 12:46 am·
After reading a column by Lauren Agresti that appeared in an edition of The Daily Pennsylvanian last week (“The road less traveled,” Jan. 29) about why she chose to deactivate, I agreed with her that Greek life is not right for everybody, but for me it was right.
I came from an unreasonably small high school — we had 34 students in my graduating class and about 200 in grades six through 12. I can distinctly remember the first time I walked down Locust Walk at that high tide between classes and the terrifying sensation of a swarm of impeccably dressed students coming at me.
This kind of culture shock is what made me decide to rush. I needed to make that swarm identifiable and learn how to dress so well in order to be comfortable at a school so large and intimidating. In fact, the teachers from my high school had warned all of us that no matter where we went to college, we’d be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of classmates we’d have and that campus involvement would be the only remedy.
Rush itself, however, was not particularly pleasant for me. It was overwhelming and blurry, and the time not spent wrestling my hair to lie straight was spent on the phone with my mother, watching “Keeping up with the Kardashians” and alienating my then quasi-boyfriend. Very little effort was expended on school.
I had known going in which sorority I’d wanted, and every time they welcomed me back, my anxiety only increased. I just wanted to be a part of it so, so, so badly in the way that only a teenager can desire something.
On receiving my bid on bid night and receiving exactly what I had wanted was even more destabilizing than rush itself. In fact, I had to return to Hill before I was even capable of celebrating with my fellow bids.
I, however, did not really refocus on school after rush. The mixers, date parties and the countless reasons to get dressed up were all so much more dazzling than United States foreign policy. My midterm grades were the lowest grades I’d ever received before or since in school.
I went in a shocked daze to the Weingarten Learning Resources Center and asked for a tutor. Even though she wanted to talk specifics about what had gone so terribly wrong with my midterms, I wanted to talk about my feelings.
I blamed everyone — my high school for not preparing me and the sorority for distracting me. The tutor indulged me. She told me that the sorority was, in many ways, an investment. After going to such a small high school, I’d need to recreate that sense of community, that intimacy.
Since then, with every disappointing grade and every new set of boy drama and every awkward run-in I’ve needed to avoid, one of my pledge sisters seems to materialize. It’s as if they have some radar to walk past me in Houston, run me to the sanctity of the girl’s bathroom and listen to me panic.
Since that time freshman year, however, there have not been too many disappointing grades. For whatever reason, my sorority is comprised mostly of nursing and pre-med students. This would seem an unlikely fit for a creative writing major like me — my sorority sisters and I often regard one another’s books with a kind of reverent fear.
It works, though. There is always someone who wants me to walk with them to Van Pelt, and I always have an audience for my short stories before I present them to my class. Before pledging, I was never comfortable letting anyone but my teachers and classmates read my stories, but I receive so much encouragement and enthusiasm stereotypically associated with sorority girls each time I send one of my stories to our pledge class listserv that I’m now confident enough as a writer to, say, write a column for our school newspaper explaining what I love so much about them.
Ultimately, our admissions have assured us that we attend a school full of almost painfully bright, motivated students. Every organization we have on campus, therefore, will be equally distributed with bright, motivated students. For me, my sorority made Penn feel as small and intimate as my little Quaker high school.
Rebecca Dubow is a College senior from Philadelphia, Pa. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.