What Greek life taught me about traveling

January 27, 2011 in Life,Philosophy,Travel

 

The university Greek system: it’s a polarizing subject. Some rave about the friendships, the fun and the future networking. Others complain about paying for fake friends and wasting time and money.
I’m a proud Alpha Delta Pi. After my third knee surgery, I quit the lacrosse team and decided to try out Greek life–and despite joining as a junior, I earned a position on executive board and lived in the house my senior year. As rush season rolls around again, I took a moment to contemplate my Greek experience has helped me as a traveler.
Sorority girl in streets of Monaco

“Conversation skills” go a long way. Recruitment often seems like a crazy way to meet people: you literally get thrown together with a stranger and have to decide within a few minutes whether you want to be best friends. I’ve always been chatty, but sorority life taught me how to talk easily with just about anyone–we even get briefed on how to deal with an awkward silence or weird questions.
Comes in handy whether you’re seated next to a loony bin on a train or you want to strike up a conversation with the cute guy on a bean bag at a hostel. You never know who you’ll end up sitting next to on an airplane: sometimes it’s an industry connection you’d never be able to make in regular life! I’ve made great friends by taking a chance and striking up a chat.
You do get judged on how you present yourself. Backpack or rolling suitcase? Makeup or au naturel? Sneakers or flats? All of those go into how people perceive you as a person and a traveler. I always regret it when I roll out of bed and start exploring without a hint of makeup or straightening my hair–those are always the days when I need a favor or sit next to someone interesting on the plane.
Just like we were advised against just rolling out of bed and throwing on our letters, I sometimes wish that travelers would take an extra moment in how they present themselves to the rest of the world. You are representing yourself, your family, your country: take a little pride in it. I’m not saying you have to break out the high heels or dress shoes, but gym shorts and sneakers are meant for the gym–not the Louvre.

 

Two girls during ADPi Fall Rush
Money isn’t everything, but it sure does help. I won’t lie: sorority life is expensive. Acting as the financial vice president (basically managing the roughly $80,000 budget of a nonprofit) taught me firsthand how to manage money, particularly how to balance fun and necessities. Money shouldn’t be the be-all, end-all, but it certainly takes saving and budgeting skills to make long-term travel work.
There have been a few times when I’ve been pretty darn grateful that I’ve planned for some wiggle room in my budget: when I ended up having to buy an emergency passport or when I stumbled upon the opportunity to go paragliding.
You’re going to get stereotyped. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I wore my letters on the first day of class, with nails manicured and designer jeans on: everyone expected me to be a dumb sorority girl who cared more about getting wasted than getting good grades. However, I loved the look on my professor’s face when I ended up number one in the class.
Just like people stereotype in college among Greeks and athletes, fat sororities and slutty sororites, frat guys and physics nerds, they stereotype in real life: loud Americans, snotty French, friendly Italians, drunk Australians. It’s up to you to embrace the stereotype or prove that there’s more to you than your nationality.

ADPi Alumnae Reunion


It’s not always perfect. I didn’t love every moment in sorority life–far from it. There were plenty of times when living with 20 other young women is eerily similar to a hostel mixed dorm: loud and crazy when all you want is to get some sleep. Long, drawn-out rituals and meetings can mirror the ever-worsening trials at the airport: miscommunication about requirements, unnecessary security, the waiting game.
Some friendships that are forever can be made in a moment. It sounds corny, but I met some of my best friends in Greek life. Some of the girls I keep in touch with are ones that I hit it off with during those five-minute recruitment conversations.
Similarly, I’ve established great friendships with people who I’ve met on bike tours or hostel common rooms. Sometimes you just need that spark to know that you’re of the same mindset.
If you were active in the Greek system, how has it helped you in your travels or life?

 

  • Angie_cro

    it’s too bad that we don’t have sororities here, so I’ve personally had no experience so far (unfortunately I doubt I’ll ever have) but it always sounds fun and looks like a great way of meeting people… 🙂 love your post 🙂 thanks for sharing your experiences!!
    cheers

    Angie_Cro

  • Sororities is quite an american thing, right? It’s interesting… and really a shame we didn’t have it in Spain. However, I must admit that my studies in International Business did help a lot on the above. Once a year, all international universities belonging to our group reunited in one country to compete and celebrate! The communication skills, the presenting yourself (yeah, you were surely judged, a lot!), the stereotypes, the money (as a student.. it’s not always easy to find a way to finance your 4-day trip to Mallorca or Ireland…). And most importantly, I’ve made my best friends during those 4 years. Some of them I met in a drinking game, some of them I met in class. Now each of us live in a different country (and continent!) since 2 years, and we still meet at least once a year…
    Again, not greek system – but maybe something similar, right?

  • I am a big fan of the show Greek. Unfortunately this is the closed to the Greek system I get. Unless you count a college roommate in a service fraternity who was known as Vodka Boy for good reason. I think it might have been fun and probably really helpful, but I was so shy in college that it never crossed my mind.
    Nice set of comparisons.

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  • How fun! I was also in ADPi at University of San Diego. Being in a sorority definately opened me up to new experiences and people. After I came back from my semester abroad in France, I wasn’t as into it, but I have kept friends still to this day that I met in sorority. PS – Love new header/site redesign. Who did it?

  • Amy

    Being involved in the Greek system was definitely a huge benefit from my college days. For many of the reasons you suggested, you get exposed to different people, with similar interests. Much like when you travel, you’re meeting people from all different backgrounds that love to experience the world. But outside of that, being Greek has helped me in the working world too – networking, the value of hard work, and the value of philanthropy. As an alumna of ADPi, I’m now advising my home chapter, and it’s great to see them learning how advantageous the sorority can be in life as they near graduation. Loved this post! 🙂

  • Joya

    I was a Delta Zeta at LMU and I have to admit I believed the stereotype at first and didn’t want to join a sorority. I decided to join at the last minute based on my friend’s persuasion and it ended up being the best decision I made in college. I would definitely agree that recruitment gave me the skill of being able to talk to anyone. I was also on executive board and learned to make decisions even though I faced resistance which is very important while on the road. You have a unique post!

  • What an interesting article. My school didn’t have Greek life, and I really don’t understand it all too well. But I played college athletics, and would say I learned a lot from that! We had a LOT of social functions with other teams, mandatory community service, plus all of the character building you get from physically playing on a team ! Did you find that while playing lacrosse (bummer about your knee – my sis has had 2 acl surgeries!)

  • interesting article .. in accordance with my studies .. thanks
    best regards

  • I never thought of joining a sorority but was on the volleyball team…being thrown into a “group” and learning to love ’em or hate ’em has taught me the value of small talk! From reading this post, I would have to say Greek life and Athletics compare to one another in the college world 🙂

  • Love the new layout! And, great job on this article. It is perfect!

    Cheers
    -Raquel

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for reading! It’s definitely an American (sometimes Canadian) experience–and believe me, the movies tend to make it look way crazier than it actually is! However, it was a really great experience for me and it’s funny how it’s ended up helping me in real life 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Exactly! I think there are a lot of types of “Greek systems” in universities–mainly, just a sort of organized friend group that offer the same benefits Could be a volunteer organization, sports team, business fraternity. Glad to hear that you had a similar positive experience!

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t watched Greek, but if it’s like most representations of the Greek system in movies or TV, I’m sure that it’s much different in real life! I would say less drama, buuuut that would probably be a bit of a lie 🙂 It helped a lot of really shy people come out of their shells–you kind of get forced into it, but I think it’s for the better 🙂
    Thanks for weighing in!

  • Anonymous

    I chose the sorority over studying abroad–so I think that’s why I’m so gung-ho about traveling now! Always nice to hear about another ADPi who loves to travel 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! Whenever I decide to settle down, I hope that I’ll be able to act as an ADPi advisor–I worked really closely with our amazing financial advisor as FVP and I hope that I’ll be able to give back in the same way someday. It’s amazing to see the value of networking from the sorority–even around the world! Pi love!

  • Anonymous

    Oh my gosh, making decisions even when facing resistance! As the Financial Vice President, I know exactly what you’re talking about–that’s a great point! Glad that you were able to relate–it’s nice to know that even though it hasn’t helped me in the traditional “networking” sense, my Greek affiliation has still helped me a lot in my chosen lifestyle.

  • Anonymous

    I think that after I hurt my knee, I was searching to fill the void that was left after I couldn’t play sports anymore. I grew up playing competitive soccer, then switched to lacrosse after my first knee surgery. After my second, I quit lacrosse but I still wanted that close friend group, social opportunities, chance to get involved with something. I originally meant to play on the sorority sports teams as well (we competed in a rec league) but after a bad pivot on the basketball court, I realized I didn’t want my third knee surgery to be the result of sorority sports! So yes, I definitely agree–I think that athletics and the Greek system offer a lot of the same benefits in university.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely agree! Most of the benefits I received from the Greek system were similar to what I had on the lacrosse team. I think both athletics and the Greek system are a great way to get more involved, meet more people and have a more fulfilling university experience 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Raquel! Glad that you like it–writing this piece was super fun since I got to go through bunches of old sorority pictures and remember all the fun times! Pi love <3

  • Three knee surgeries? Man. That’s a lot!

    I didn’t join a sorority in college, but I was a member of those two sororities of sorts for young girls – the Brownies and the Girl Scouts. And I must say, now that you’ve got me mulling it, there is plenty I learned through those experiences as a kid that have stayed with me. Most prominently, probably, “always be prepared” (thus, plan ahead). Which is likely why I’m a passionate trip planner, and always WELL in advance of the vacation.

    Planning well, whether it comes to budgeting or contingency plans B through Z, has served me well on many adventures afar. Particularly last spring when I couldn’t get to Nice because of the volcano erupting in Iceland. Sure I was freaked out, but I was well prepared for the major change of plans.

    And believe it or not, I’m still pals with more than a few of those girls!

  • Angie_cro

    😀 really? a lot crazier? :)interesting… unfortunately, a lot of movies make things look a lot different, and I have to admit that (though I’m sure you’re already aware of it) lots of Europeans in general don’t have a very nice opinion about the Americans.. :/ prejudices :/
    ok, I’m off the track, .. 🙂 keep up the good work 🙂

  • Jessica J

    This is so true! I found all of these aspects of Greek Life helped when I lived in Madrid for the summer! Love the family picture as well 😉 Good luck in Sydney!

  • Anonymous

    Glad you enjoyed it–you’ll have to share it with any of the girls who are thinking about studying abroad! Good luck with rush and the presidency 🙂

  • As a proud member of the Greek system and an alumna of Phi Mu, I absolutely loved this post! I could tell you had a really good time introducing this topic, it shows in your writing 🙂 I agree with all the points that you have made. In my personal experiences, I have noticed since going through years of recruitment that good first impressions are really important. Even when personal traveling, I recap on some of the principals I was taught in the sorority and find myself making a good impression with my listener. The Greek system is wrongfully accused on what our values are; we seem to be known as the connection to where the latest parties are, social drinking events, etc. I realized going through rush my junior year (like yourself) just how people are very stereotypical when it comes to the Greek system. I was first baseman for Penn State and I will never forget my classmates and teammates reactions when they heard that I was balancing Softball and a sisterhood – sometimes people can be cruel. But hey, being apart of a sisterhood was the best decision that I made. One of the greatest advice that was given to me was to always be kind to those you meet. You know never know how a smile can brighten someone’s day. Also, your sorority sisters are apart of your wedding day; you really are stuck with them for life! 😉 Loved the photos, especially the Family portrait 🙂

    Cheers,
    *Jessica

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I’m glad that someone has had a similiar experience–and I love that piece about being kind to everyone you meet. We were definitely always encouraged to be nice to everyone–in the Greek system or not–because you never know what kind of impression you’re making on someone and the ripple effect of that kindness. Congratulations on balancing Greek life and athletics–that must have been tough, but well worth it!

  • Hey Christine!

    Thanks for the awesome comment 🙂 I do miss being active in the sorority – it is nice to have someone to recap the “glamor” days! This post reminded me of some great times – thank you! And you’re right, having good conversation skills or at least taking the initiative to strike up a conversation comes in handy for traveling and your personal life. I had one of my favorite conversations with a stranger in the elevator recently – you never know how interesting a stranger can be till you are stuck in the elevator with them! 😉

    Cheers,
    *Jessica

  • Anonymous

    I feel like traveling just opens you up to talking with more people–something we rarely do at home (outside of rush, of course!). Glad you enjoyed the post–I actually met with an ADPi in Sydney last night for drinks and it was so much fun! it’s crazy how sorority connections really are all over the world 🙂

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  • This is so exciting! I, too, am an Alpha Delta Pi. (In fact, I just found out I was chosen to be a traveling Leadership Consultant for 2012-2013, so I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more about traveling and Greek Life then!) I happened to see this post in the “You might also like” widget on your recent post about Railay, and imagine my surprise and delight when I saw my all-too-familiar letters on your sweatshirt in that picture.

    As far as my personal experiences, I always like to wear my letters when I’m traveling domestically, because you never know when you’ll see a fellow sister in an airport. When I wore my letters while studying abroad in Africa last summer, I got some surprising reactions. Some people thought I was of Greek heritage and the letters were significant to my family, and many people asked me if it’s like the TV shows (sadly, I told them, the shows are pretty accurate).

    So, nice to meet you, sister! 🙂 Your the second ADPi blogger I’ve found this week, though I’ve been reading both your blogs for much longer.

  • Oh my gosh, I promise I meant to write “You’re the second ADPi blogger…” at the end, not “Your.” I’m so embarrassed. 🙂 Pi love!

  • camorose

    Pi love! So awesome–I used to always rock my letters in airports and around home, and always ended up meeting girls from other chapters. One of the girls from my chapter (actually my great-niece or something ridiculous in the family structure) is going to be an LC next year too–Jessica Johnson–surely you’ll meet her this summer, she’s awesome! That’s such a cool opportunity and an amazing chance to travel domestically–soak it up 🙂

  • This is too weird — Jessica and I already know each other! We interned together at ADPi last summer. Haha I’ll be sure to tell her we met through the blogosphere! 🙂

  • camorose

    Ummm Pi LOVE! So awesome!

  • Haha so I was totally going to write a how being Greek has made me a better traveler, but I see you beat me to it… by over a year 😉 

  • camorose

    Haha only because it’s true!

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