Greek Life through International Eyes

As an international student, I could only envisage Greek life in America through books and movies. Back in high school, I remember thinking how amazing it would be to join a sorority one day. The sorority sisters in the movies were so popular, beautiful, and motivated. To me, it was evident that the American college experience would not be complete without joining a sorority.

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Coming from a small international high school, I also remember feeling slightly intimidated when watching movies about Greek life. Being used to small parties where most attendees were my close friends, I was not sure whether I would able to adapt to frat parties.  After watching movies such as “Project X”  or “Neighbours,” I highly doubted that a foreigner would be accepted into the Greek circle.

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When I arrived at Rutgers and saw all the fraternity and sorority houses, I was completely spellbound. I could not help thinking how cool the sorority girls looked walking down College Avenue with their letters imprinted on their shirts. I also recall the excitement I felt after being invited to my first fraternity party. Back home, whenever we would go out to a party, it was normal etiquette to wear a dress or a nice skirt. At the frat party, though, I quickly learned that a complete other wardrobe was necessary to blend in. Thankfully, after a few parties, my international friends and I were quickly able to blend in with the rest of our American peers.

In my sophomore year, I had seriously considered rushing for a sorority. As an international student with no family in the United States, making friends or “sisters for life” was something very appealing. I remember going to a few “Meet the Sisters” events and being touched by how accepting some of the sisters were to the fact that  I was an international student. Unfortunately, due to heavy course loads, I never did officially commit to rushing for a specific sorority. However, even if I am not part of a sorority, I have still been able to partake in a culture that was once accessible to me only through movies.

Although I did not join Greek life, I do believe that it can be a great opportunity for international students trying to get the most out of their time in America. At Rutgers, I have many International friends who ended up joining. One of them, Anusha Kumar, is one of my closest friends here at Rutgers. Although Anusha was born in the United States, she spent most of her life back home in India.  Anusha was kind enough to share a few of her experiences as a sister in Sigma Kappa.

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Just like me, Anusha had learned about Greek life back in high school. When researching for potential universities to apply to, Anusha recounted how a strong Greek presence had been one of the aspects she looked for. When she arrived at Rutgers, she was impressed by the Greek life at the university. After talking to a few sisters in sororities, Anusha pointed out how false the image was of the “typical sorority girl.” The girls she talked to were hardworking, dedicated, and deeply committed to philanthropic initiatives. As Anusha put it, “Some of the sisters were pursuing majors I couldn’t even pronounce! They were so smart and involved in so many extracurricular activities.”

When I asked Anusha what her primary reason was to join a sorority, she replied that it was for the friendships:

“Back in India, my high school was a lot smaller than Rutgers. When I came here, it was amazing how enormous the university was! I only had one friend from high school that I knew here, so I was trying to make new friends and meet new people. Most of the people I know at Rutgers today are through my sorority.”

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Anusha also mentioned that Sigma Kappa is one of the most diverse sororities on campus; however, she is still the most international sister in the sorority. When I asked her whether it was easy for her to integrate into the American culture, she replied that it was, just because her sisters had made sure to help her along the way. Having left the United States at the age of nine, Anusha pointed out that her sisters had, “helped me re-enter the society.”

On a final note, Anusha emphasized the fact that the stereotypes of Greek life are for the most part untrue. In fact, she recounted being falsely stereotyped during her first sorority/frat mixer in Sigma Kappa:

“I remember we were all standing in a circle with a couple of the brothers. As we were dancing, a rap song started playing. I love rap, so I started rapping to it. Then all of a sudden, all the boys were like ‘You know how to rap?’ They didn’t think a sorority girl could rap. And I was like ‘Yeah! This is my jam, this is my song!’ They were so shocked and impressed that I could rap. The common stereotype for a “sorority girl” is just not true. Yes, I rap and that does not make me any less of sorority girl.”

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Greek life is an experience that many international students dream of being part of. As Anusha mentioned, it is a great way to meet new people, which is something very important to students who have left their home countries to come to Rutgers. Being able to wear letters alongside your sisters or brothers is a concept I find very empowering. My college experience here at Rutgers has been amazing so far, and the Greek life presence has played a strong role in that. Back in the Netherlands, we do have Greek life, but it does not play as much of an integral role as it does at Rutgers. Once I go back home to Europe, going to a frat party or taking part in Dance Marathon will all be memories I recount when thinking of my time at Rutgers.

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