Project LA – “What did I do this week? Oh, I rushed a Sorority.” (Part 1)
As you can probably tell from the title of this post, this month I took the plunge and got involved with the subject of many of a film or TV show about American college life: I joined a Sorority. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’ve had everyone else thinking it all month, but just bare with me for a bit, Sorority life really is not what you think, and I thought it would be fun for me to share with you what exactly the process you have to go through in order to be accepted into a Sorority; recruitment, or more commonly known as ‘Rush’ entails.
Prospective New Members, otherwise known as ‘PNM’s’ rush Sororities in groups, each group looked after by a Rho Gamma (who is essentially your counsellor , a girl who is a member of a Sorority, but you’re not allowed to know what Sorority she is a member of. They take this whole secrecy thing so seriously they put all the Rho Gamma’s up in an apparently not so nice hotel so that they won’t be returning to their houses in the evenings and perhaps giving themselves away, and when you go into the houses anything with their name or photo on is covered over with a post it note! We had a lot of fun trying to guess which houses our Rho Gamma’s belonged to, and I’m proud to say that when the big reveal came just before we received our bids (our invitations to join) I found out I’d guessed right from day 1).
For the first round of recruitment, you essentially girl flirt at each house for about half an hour, spread over two nights. Dress is casual, and you’re lined up by your Rho Gamma’s in alphabetical order in front of each house. After a few minutes standing there (the whole rush process involves an awful lot of waiting around) the Sorority President, and the Vice President of Recruitment of new members steps out the house to give you an official welcome in. I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but I could not help but gather first impressions on how these two Senior’s presented themselves. The girls who were dressed identically? I’m pretty sure I had to bite my tongue to stop myself laughing, and try very hard to stop myself rolling my eyes!
You walk up to the house single file, and shake both girls hands and introduce yourself, in case they are not able to read your name tag listing your first and last name, and your home town (though, I must have realised that they don’t read it. If I had a dollar for the number of times Sorority girls told me “Oh my God I love your accent! Where are you from?…). Then one of the members of the house takes you into the house, hands you a flavoured water and sits you down for a chat.
Let’s rest for a moment on the topic of flavoured water. Apparently it is a Sorority thing, but in every house we went to we were given different flavoured waters. Cucumber I think was my favourite, but Strawberry, Grapefruit and Watermelon were actually pretty good. People saw it as a bit of a joke, but I really liked it – readers of my blog, look out for recipes and ideas for flavoured waters Sorority style very soon!
Sitting down, you make conversation. Popular topics are where you are from, your Major (what subject you’re studying), your hobbies and your hometown apparently, but for me I spent an awful lot of time time talking about London (if I was there for the Olympics), England, boarding school, and professional blogging. After a while, the girls switch, the person you were talking to introduces you to the new girl, and lets them know what you’ve been talking about. While I got a bit bored of telling the same stories and talking about the same things over and over again, I was surprised to find I had a lot more in common with a lot of the girls like I thought I would, and I really enjoyed some of the conversations.
One of my favourite topics I liked to move on to to switch it up a bit was the decor in the houses; they had decorated it specially, some of them had something like a beach theme, and they all had beautiful floral centre pieces on each table that really inspired me, so much so I ended up buying and arranging flowers for my own apartment by the end of the week! At the very beginning of the rush process I decided to take it seriously with an open mind, and I think in the first stages one of the things that really made a house stand out for me was the atmosphere. You see, the one thing that made your throat really start hurting after a house or two (some girls even lost their voice) was the shouting. Lots of the houses were short of room, about 50 or 60 girls were squashed trying to talk into one room, so you had to shout to have a conversation with your girl. After the first day, the three houses that stood out for me were the ones where you could hear yourself speak!
At the end you are led out the house, where all the members are assembled chanting and clapping their house song. This was also quite loud, but in retrospect, I think if I had not decided to be so open minded about the whole process I would have found it pretty hilarious. That can also be said of the door chants each house did. We all assembled outside the house to listen to the sisters finish singing, and they kneel down or lean out of the doorway so they fill is, and do a special door chant which included at least one of the following: clapping, snapping (more on that later), head bopping or hair whipping. If it had not been for the (also frankly hilarious, and not very accurate) documentary ’Sorority Girls‘ that was on Channel 4 last December (American Sorority girls try to start a Sorority at Leeds university) which meant I was forewarned about door claps, I’m pretty sure I would have lost it in hysterics when I was presented with my first one.
At the end of the first round we were asked to rate our top 8 houses with a ’1′, then add ’2′, ’3′ and ’4′ to the rest, so when we turned up for the second round, which was all about Philanthropy (the houses’ charity work, a big part of being a Sorority girl) and House Tours, our Rho Gamma gives us a piece of paper with up to 8 houses to revisit. They try to give you your choices, but it is really about if a Sorority invites you back or not. They won’t give you your piece of paper until the very last minute, as they don’t want you to over think it. Towards the end I was seeing more and more girls in tears because they had been dropped from houses they loved. I got invited back to 6 houses, including the house I had ranked bottom, and only one of my top three. Going into rush, I had decided to just throw myself into it, do it seriously and without any stereotypes in my mind. Actually, I really loved three houses, really disliked one and the rest I felt indifferent about.
To be continued…