By Tianzhen Nie
Distinguished Young Woman of Hawaii for 2015
Like many other cynical millenials of my generation, I don’t generally do New Years Resolutions. Overarching life goals however, I do set, and this year there was really only one; to try new things, one of which was—you guessed it—rush a sorority.
Just from reading this much, you can probably tell that I—like most people who write these kinds of posts—am not your typical sorority girl. Not only do I look nothing like Elle Woods, but prior to coming to college, I didn’t even know what sororities do, as Greek life is pretty much nonexistent in Hawaii. (In fact, when I read through the introductions of people in the honors college saying they were planning to rush, I could not for the life of me understand why they’d want to rush through college when they’d already come in with so many credits.)
It wasn’t until Nationals, when I spent two weeks surrounded 24/7 by 49 other girls, that the thought of joining a sorority actually began to take shape in my mind. Suddenly, wearing matching t-shirts and always having someone to hang out with was no longer a distant possibility, but rather an extension of the sisterhood I’d already had at DYW.
Fast forward to the start of my freshman year, and I am an out-of-state student inundated with boatloads of information five thousand miles from home. There’s dozens of organizations I’m interested in, and almost just as many for which I’ve put my name on the listserv. The first three weeks of classes, I was so busy I barely had time to stop by the dining hall, and long story short, I didn’t rush.
Over the course of the next couple of months, as girls in my classes walked in wearing their sorority letters and my DYW sisters inundated my feed with pictures of their pledge class, I tried to convince myself that I was having an equally grand first semester; I’d gotten involved in several organizations, made some close friends, and for the most part, kept my grades up. But beyond my bible study leaders, I didn’t have any older girls I looked up to as mentors. And unlike my roommate, who’d quickly found a family in her soccer team, the disjointed groups of people I’d befriended did not equate a “squad.”
Yet it wasn’t until I went home for winter break and re-immersed myself in my church community that I realized what I’d been missing out on. Even then however, I wasn’t completely sure a sorority was the right decision, and I had loads of excuses to back it up (money, time-commitment, disapproval from friends, my parents’ lack of understanding of the institution as a whole, etc.) After a lot of reflection and prayer however, I decided to participate in spring recruitment, but only for Phi Beta Chi, my school’s Christian sorority. Rushing only one as opposed to dozens of sororities meant a far smaller recruitment week time commitment (which shrunk even more with the onslaught of the snowpocalypse that week) and more time to get to know the girls in my chapter. Before Preference night even came around, I knew PBX was where I wanted to be.
Fast forward a couple of weeks to present day, and I’ve already attended a semi-formal, volunteered at a fundraiser event for our national philanthropy, and gone through Big Little week. And in case you’re wondering, I got my first-choice Big! Her name is Anna, and we met the first day of recruitment week and hit it off immediately. To be honest, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through last week without all her thoughtful gifts and messages, delivered daily by one or several cute boys. (I wish I had pics, but I recorded everything through snapchat and made our campus story, so there’s that.)
One of the things people always say about being in a sorority is that it makes your campus smaller, and that’s the absolute truth: it’s astounding what a difference knowing 135 people can make in a school of 30,000. Meanwhile, it’s broadened my social horizons to beyond people in my dorm, my year, and the Christian fellowship I participate in.
Yet despite how much I love my sorority, I’m glad I didn’t rush last semester. Finishing my senior year and going to nationals ended my high school career on such a high note that I’d forgotten what it meant to really start on the bottom of the food chain. For me, picking up and moving five thousand miles away from everything I’d known meant that I needed that first semester to get re-acclimated to who I was. It wasn’t easy, but I learned a lot about whom I’d become and what I valued, so that when I finally rushed this semester, it was for all the right reasons. Although I fully appreciate that being in a sorority is not for everyone, I personally can’t imagine being any happier than as a baby beta lamb.
Tianzhen Nie is a college freshman at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina . Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, Tianzhen was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Hawaii for 2015. Learn more about Tianzhen here!