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Guest Columnist Bernadine Kumi highlights the community she found as a Black woman involved in Greek life at Penn. Credit: Yolanda Chen

I’ll be honest: I was not a fan of Greek life when I first got to Penn. My perception of Greek life was influenced by growing up in the South, mainly in suburban Georgia. This included a sorority scene of girls with fake spray tans and little to no personality. The images of sorority girls from the University of Georgia and Alabama screamed no diversity, which made me wary of joining a sorority at Penn. Being a First-Generation, Low-Income (FGLI) student made me especially hesitant. Even more so, coming from a Ghanaian household, the notion of a sorority was immediately dismissed as something against our Christian values. Thus, during my first year, I knew I would never, and I mean never, join a sorority. 

However, by the beginning of sophomore year, my mindset began to change. After a year on campus, I had found a solid community of a small group of friends. But beyond that, I felt that I did not really know anyone. I couldn’t name more than 20 people in my grade. Penn is known for being a networking school, and the “Social Ivy,” so I began to question just how much I had taken advantage of that. That, along with most of the underclassmen party scene revolving around fraternities, made the idea of rushing even more appealing. 

So while most people were beginning their sophomore year with the friends they already had, I began to look for additional friends. My twin sister, who also goes to Penn, and I began attending open rush events, talking to sophomores in sororities, and involving ourselves in more social events. Over the next few months, my days consisted of talking to many girls, going to dinners, and putting myself out there in a way that I had been hesitant to do before. I made new friends, met fellow sophomores also in search of a bigger community, and found myself loving the idea of joining a sorority. 

But what made me even more eager was just how inclusive and diverse sororities were at Penn, more so than I had been expecting—especially the off-campus sorority I ended up joining, OAX. I was still wary about rushing, but as soon as I got to the first event, I immediately felt comfortable. There were girls with different interests, passions, economic backgrounds, and personalities. Not a single conversation felt forced. Every girl I met had a unique and authentic story, and I felt like I could talk to them for hours.

I was especially captivated by BLOAX (Black OAX), a community within OAX that includes fellow girls of Ghanaian descent and other Black girls who provided me with guidance on navigating Penn as a Black woman. OAX also has other smaller communities, such as LatinOAX and RainbOAX. Being able to find other people with similar backgrounds made the choice to join a sorority that much easier. 

As a FGLI student and Questbridge scholar, the idea of paying high dues out of my minimal work paychecks every month was unfathomable. I knew that joining a sorority would pose another financial burden, and even though I was loving the OAX community, the idea of paying dues scared me. Yet once again, OAX and other sororities surprised me with their understanding and financial transparency. They worked with me to develop an affordable monthly payment plan so that I, like every other girl interested in rushing, could also enjoy being in a sorority. 

Since the morning of Bid Day when I got “the call,” I know that I truly made the right decision by joining a sorority, for not only my social life but my professional life too. This past fall, I was able to land a summer internship in Los Angeles with the help of my grand-big. I was also able to prepare for my interview with girls in my sorority, who gave me the confidence I needed to land the opportunity. As a Black woman and FGLI student, I have truly benefited from joining Greek life. I hope students who are hesitant to rush, just as I once was, will see my experience and how transformative it can be. I hope others — whether they are Black women, FGLI students, or just Penn students in search of a greater community — can do the same.

BERNADINE KUMI is a College junior studying political science and legal studies and history from Roswell, Ga. Her email is