As my second Fall Quarter at UC San Diego draws to a close, I have been taking some time to reflect on last year’s Fall Quarter. One of the main experiences that characterized my Fall Quarter as a freshman was joining a sorority, despite Greek life being the last thing I had expected for myself before I came to UCSD.
The summer before our freshman year of college, I remember my best friend asking me if I planned on rushing in the fall. I was shocked that she thought I’d even be considering it. I didn’t know much about sororities, but what I imagined was a toxic environment filled with superficial and hateful people. I thought Greek life would not be a space where I could be myself or make meaningful connections. I was worried I would feel the need to conform in order to fit in — the same way I felt throughout much of my early teenage years; therefore, I planned to steer clear of anything that could remotely make me feel the same way.
However, my freshman year started off much rougher than I was expecting. I was hit with the harsh reality of moving away from home as a girl who had never spent more than two weeks away from her family. Coming from a small town and a high school with a graduating class of 150, adjusting to a university of thousands and being nine hours away from home proved to be difficult. I felt very alone and missed the relationships I left behind. I then began to reevaluate my attitude towards Greek life after hearing from my suitemates and friends at other schools about their experiences. I decided to go through recruitment, and I was pleasantly surprised.
I found that most sororities at UCSD were diverse and filled with ambitious students who I shared similar interests and values with. Much to my surprise, all the girls I met throughout recruitment were friendly and welcoming. I immediately felt like I was surrounded by so many people like me, while also having completely different backgrounds. I feel very lucky to go to a university where I’m constantly surrounded by other people of color, many of them first-generation college students like myself, knowing that we are sharing the same experiences, and the sorority I joined emulated this.
On the other hand, it is also important to recognize that this experience is not consistent with the institution of Greek life at other schools, especially at bigger state schools. The warm and welcoming atmosphere of Panhellenic at UCSD is an exception rather than the standard. Many of my friends and I agree that if we were at another school, we probably would not be in Greek life, due to the toxic environment and negative stereotypes it can perpetuate. This is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about, and it does sometimes fill me with guilt. At what point is it hypocritical to criticize a system when you are actively a part of it? Is there room for improvement in an institution like this? These questions fill my mind when I question my place in Greek life and think about whether or not being in a sorority is for me.
Despite this, the women I have met through my sorority are incredibly important to me. They are kind, uplifting, and supportive in all respects. I have been pushed to step out of my comfort zone in ways that have had an immeasurable impact on my confidence. I am constantly inspired by the work ethic of the women around me who juggle work, sorority life, extracurricular commitments, school, and career opportunities. I feel as though I am always pushed to be the best version of myself with the most wonderful group of friends surrounding me.
This is not to say that Greek life does not require reform, as it absolutely does. As a start, I think Sorority & Fraternity Life at UCSD has done a great job at acknowledging the need for education on important issues that come up within Greek life such as microaggressions, mental health struggles, misogyny, along with others. Implementing workshops and peer-led discussions on important topics instead of brushing them under the rug is incredibly important, but there is only so much that can be done when our society upholds harmful beauty standards and continues to be discriminatory and sustain racial divisions.
Nonetheless, Greek life has shaped my college experience in ways I did not expect. Staying true to my identity and being someone worthy of the sacrifices my immigrant parents made to send me to college is always my number one priority. I feel proud that I am able to accomplish this while being a part of my sorority, even though there are issues that initially made me question joining Greek life. My sorority has provided me with a community of individuals who are unique, caring, and hardworking in ways I look up to that ultimately make me glad my freshman year self decided to go through recruitment.