Disclaimer: I wrote this for the Daily Mississippian, but I have yet to hear from my editor so who knows when it will actually appear in the newspaper!
Greek organizations get a bad rap on many college campuses, including Ole Miss. They are criticized for existing solely as social groups or networking opportunities for their members. In reality, Greek organizations are more than what this stereotype gives them credit for. They are an important support system and community for their members. It isn’t just about what letters are on your swap shirt, it’s about the people and the values those letters represent.
Within Greek organizations, brothers or sister provide a great support system for one another. Everyone helps out when someone is going through a hard time, and celebrates each person’s successes, no matter how small. Greek organizations are a great way to learn valuable leadership skills, and help members grow and mature as members of a university and the local community.
Sororities and Fraternities do not just provide a sense of community for their members, but also foster a larger Greek community. Meeting a fellow Greek who is not in one’s organization is still a bonding experience.
All Greeks understand what it’s like to be a member: the time commitment, the social aspect, the philanthropy opportunities and the strong bond between brothers and sisters. It is fun to share ideas for new philanthropy or social events and public relations materials with Greeks from outside one’s own school.
Being abroad puts the Greek system into a new perspective, since members of Greek organizations no longer have their community of sisters or brothers to rely on. The Phi, Alpha, Delta, or Zeta on their shirts no longer has any meaning in countries where sororities and fraternities do not exist outside of the United States and Canada.
The support which such a large and diverse group of friends provides Greeks is no longer available when one is abroad. Study abroad can be a very isolating experience due to the language and cultural barriers as well as the adjustment back to living with a family. The times when one feels most alone are the times in which the support of such a large group like a sorority can completely turn one’s outlook around.
However, there are positives to being a Greek abroad. It gives one the opportunity to represent their Greek organization in a new country to students from that country and universities all over the US. It’s a great opportunity to meet Greeks from other universities and learn about their system, which is a great way to cope with homesickness. One of the best parts about being a Greek abroad is that once I return, I get to share all my experiences and crazy stories with my sisters, maybe even convince a few to study abroad as well.
While there are lots of people to spend time with while abroad, there is something about the bond of sisterhood or brotherhood which cannot be replaced. In a sorority, we are each others’ families, friends, and mentors. Without that community, Greek members lose a big part of their lives that is impossible to replace.