How to Turn a Big School into a Small Community with Greek Life

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Picture this: you are a first semester freshman. Repping the Penn State logo from head to toe, double knotting your shoelaces and your backpack straps even leave imprints into your shoulders. It is your first day of class, and naturally your day is full of random gen-ed classes that mean close to nothing for you. So, what’s the point of checking the class size in this small community, right? Wrong. You feel eager and excited up until that final step into 100 Thomas Building.
There, you find out that you will be taking your first college class with 726 of your newest friends!
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Your eyes scan the entire room for what feels like the full 50 minutes, then look for just one familiar face and find nothing. 726 strangers. Being the studious freshman that you are, you tip toe to the front row. Come on, everyone told you that if you want to do well, you just have to sit front row and never break eye contact with your professor. You ask the girl next to you what her name is, she stares at you, then promptly readjusts her AirPods and looks in the opposite direction. So much for making new friends.
This lecture hall tragedy summed up my first Monday of classes in college. Sad right? After I uncontrollably cried on the phone to my mom that I was never going to make a single friend in college, I decided that it was time for action. Time to sign up for all 500 clubs and organizations that Penn State has to offer. Luckily, Panhellenic recruitment made it onto my never-ending list of friend-making opportunities.
As a first semester freshman, I didn’t know much about Greek life; frankly, I just knew that everyone was a part of it. I knew I would be introduced to tons of girls, invited to big frat parties and maybe even get a big. To be completely honest, that felt like enough for me. At Penn State, you aren’t allowed to rush until second semester. By the time recruitment rolled around, I had a few friends. I want to emphasize few. At this point, I felt better than that day first semester, but I still felt like I was just missing out on something big, something that would make my college experience memorable.
That’s the moment I decided that I would rush a sorority (and buy a whole new wardrobe to wear to recruitment).
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I remember day one of recruitment, I put on my required black Panhellenic t-shirt and stretched it out so that it would be an off the shoulder top. Also, I wore chunky earrings because some girl on YouTube told me that I would stand out more if I wore them. I had to eat at least 15 mints that day.
Every girl I spoke to that day told me I would find my best friends by the end of this process. No, actually, they told me I would find my bridesmaids. One sister said that these girls in that small, crowded and hot room were going to be the ones who make me cry laughing, and would also be the ones to help me when I am crying.
I remember thinking to myself, “This girl had to read that somewhere before she talked to me. That is the corniest thing I have ever heard.”
Flash forward to now, and I’m in my sorority for a year and half.
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I have to admit, the girl in that who-knows-what sorority? She was right. I did meet some of my best friends, but she forgot one of the best parts of Greek life.
Once you join a sorority, your 50,000-person campus becomes a lot smaller. No more walking into huge lecture halls with a scared blank look on your face. Instead, it’s squeezing between rows of people to sit with your sorority sisters, or (my personal favorite) spreading all of your belongings across an entire row of seats to save a spot for everyone.
This can go beyond your own sorority; Greek life is a family, a small community. The girl who was in your Pi Chi group might sit behind you in English, or the frat boy who looked way cuter last night could be in front of you on the Starbucks line. Sometimes, a familiar face can go a long way.
The beauty of going to a big school is finding people who will make it smaller. For me, Greek life did just that.

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