The Good, The Bad, The Greek

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Aditi our ISV Writer/Blogger joined a sorority during her first year at Cornell University. As an international student, she describes the experience as Americanization at it’s best!

I am a “fresh off the boat”(FOB)  international student from India, I believe that is the colloquial terminology.  In any case, I should specify that I did not arrive on the American shores on The Mayflower or any aqueous vehicle for that matter. It was an Airbus 380 (I must confess this terrible wisecrack is not my brainchild but was borrowed from a friend’s repertoire). Therefore, as an authentic international student, I found myself amused and bemused by this confounding phenomenon called Rush week. It was Americanization at it’s very best for me.

In India, sorority life connotes mannequin-like alpha ladies going around wearing disastrous costumes, going around kissing statues and engineering very high-end drama in order to get a T-shirt with algebraic letters on them. The stereotypical sorority girl, of course, is a tall lady with hair which remains poker straight through the most nefarious tempest, who walks on stilts, has a geometric face and usually breaks hearts. Do excuse my exaggeration but I think you get my point. Nevertheless, I made the effort to traverse across two continents on a twenty two hour long brutal flight to find out what a sorority actually looks like from the inside and embed the entire Greek alphabet in my memory forever.

Rush week is basically seven days when one will see the most number of girls you have ever seen in your entire lives trudging through snow ridges. It might have puzzled several tourist groups who were visiting campus when they saw impeccable assembly lines of girls looking their best and wearing beautiful dresses teamed with sweatpants and anything remotely warm. Cornell women do not have an outlandish sense of fashion but sweatpants over fancy clothes is one of the many “rush things” to do. So I was still coping with my jetlag and these intriguing rounds kicked off and I found myself walking through blizzards and snowflakes attacking my face with a gazillion other girls.

international student voice magazine kappa_delta_logo
The Greek letters of Aditi’s sorority: Kappa Delta

We queued up in front of our first house on the schedule, a little nervous not knowing what to expect. The regular formalities, roll call, switching to grueling heels, and then the knock on the door commence. A minute later a million hands are thumping the door and music blasts through it. I thought it was the apocalypse but it was merely the sorority chapter giving us a very enthusiastic welcome to warm our frozen spirits. Soon enough the door bursts opened and I saw the sisters doing a trance dance convincing me that if nothing else, rush week is exciting. As you pass through the doors a sister will sweep you into the most picture perfect parlors. For all you know, you could be starring in a Victorian play where your coats are taken and the most creative drinks are served in champagne glasses. One gets to meet an army of upperclass-women and have conversations about everything from the weather to theses on biology and neuroscience! I have never been so polite and well-mannered in my entire life; my mother would be proud.

It is not a myth that one has to look presentable but it definitely is a myth that you cannot do Rush week without a brand new color-coded wardrobe. It is best defined as a mutual selection process where you go house searching but the house chooses you back too simply because the house is in this case is a person per se. It is as if the Sorting Hat walks into your life at Cornell, a gender-specific Sorting Hat though. The only discrepancy though is that the Sorting Hat would be much more convenient than standing for fifteen minutes in the excruciating cold while frat stars in cars speed by honking their horns at our self-inflicted misery. However, the next minute the door opens and the excitement catches up again. It does get intense just like reality television but is not necessarily leave you emotionally impaired. Most importantly, it is a learning process. I have definitely become a smooth talker, well, a smooth-er talker, have better interpersonal skills now and have a much more clear perspective of my values. How many times do we find ourselves speechless when someone asks us, “So, tell me more about yourself?” ‘Rushing’ brings you a little closer to the answer.

Greek letters for fraternities and sororities
Greek letters for fraternities and sororities

Moreover, the beauty of sorority requirement lies in the fact that you cannot make it to any sorority just by looking like a Vogue cover-girl, there are some incredible women on either side behind all that makeup. It is finding those women and celebrating it that is the very cornerstone of sisterhood. It is a rare thing seeing Seniors tear up because they treasure their sisterhood so much, it makes it all feel real. So do not despise the sorority girl, she is more than a pin-up girl.

Also, I discovered the best bet for rushing it well: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false”. It is my abstruse verdict that Shakespeare would have made a great Rho Gamma (Recruitment Advisor).

international student voice AditiArticle written by Aditi Bhowmick, ISV Blogger/Writer 






Fun links related to Greek Life:

See which Hollywood celebrities went Greek in college

Everything you need to know about fraternities and sororities in North America



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