Two years ago, I, like many other first-year girls at UVa, decided to participate in sorority rush. Fast forward a few months, into the chilly days of January 2015. I rose early, donned an outfit I chose a few days prior, tried unsuccessfully to tame my bedhead and snuck a few snacks into my purse before heading out to meet my Pi Chi group. What lay ahead filled me with fear.
I considered myself lucky; my older sister (who had already braved the daunting process of rush) gave me counsel in the months prior. However, I became more fearful when she explained the difficult process. She told me about how big groups of girls judge your looks, your wardrobe and your personality, hoping to find girls they want to represent their sorority. I learned of the rejection she felt before she found the house where she belonged. This led me to wonder if I signed up for something I never wanted to be a part of. I didn’t want to feel judged against such harsh standards. After seeming like an outsider in high school, I feared experiencing that rejection again. I wanted to drop before even returning to college to begin the process.
However, I still went on with it and stood, sleepy and cold outside my first house on the first day of Round Robins. Suddenly, the door erupted and I timidly marched into a large, ornate house thundering with big smiles and overwhelming applause. The rest remained a blur, I flew from house to house, shaking hands, giving coats and making conversation. Instead of feeling run down, as I expected, I really enjoyed myself. I grew tired after meeting so many new people, but I found that I loved that part of it.
It struck me that the girls with whom I conversed seemed different than I initially anticipated. Behind the large scary, sorority foundations lived girls like me with real passions and interests. There I found the beauty of the process, I discovered a new world with each person I met as we shared our views. I loved watching people light up as they talked to me about what they loved and that glow seemed to pass along through each conversation.
To top off my day, I discovered my dream sorority, a place where I felt at home and truly wished to stay at the end of the 20-minute round. A week later, I opened my bid letter from that same house and rounded out an experience I only described as magical.
Though I remember my experience positively, two sides exist to rush. My roommate learned the other side. She could barely contain her excitement for rush since the day we moved in, but her rush journey didn’t happen like mine. She ended up dropping out of rush before the last round. I learned then that rush, for some people, boiled down to a numbers game. Each house composes itself with a variety of girls who hold similar values. Sometimes you hit it off with one but not another. Not to mention, some people tire after working so many rounds a day and their conversations lack enthusiasm.
This illuminated when I felt on the other side of rush; when I sprayed a smile on my face and clapped until my hands went numb. After watching girls’ heart break over losing the house they wanted more than anything, I began to see the severity of this process. To exist inside a system that prides itself on empowering and uniting women that pardoned these transgressions hurt me. Here lived the dark side I hoped never to find.
As the sting grew deeper, I also saw what incredible changes the Greek system made in the lives of the girls that pushed through it. I met girls who found a home in a place they never expected: a surprising sorority or just a university club. I learned that sometimes, things never happen the way you expect, whether good or bad.
Blaming the system or the individuals involved, I realized, helped no one. I found the power to wholeheartedly love what I received. Guarantees don’t exist in this world, and that shouldn’t scare us. Sometimes a change in perspective makes all the difference.