Until now I have focused on my transition from England to South Africa and all the exciting new things that I have discovered in the process. But as promised in the ‘about’ section I do want to give America a little mention. Mid-West, College-Town America, to be more specific. I spent my second year of university in America studying at Iowa State University, and what an experience I had! I decided before I boarded the plane that I was going to make the most of every single American experience that I possibly could. I went with another friend from Exeter, Rebecca and we became a little family.
At first we were put into Halls just off campus, ominously named ‘The Towers’ – where they stick all of the transfer students and study abroad kids. Luckily Becca and I didn’t spend much time there in the first week – we were too busy going through Rush. “Rush?” I hear you say, “sounds like something from a movie” well have you seen legally blonde? Becca and I were embarking on our biggest cultural shock yet, Greek Land. Rush is the week before university starts and it is the biggest interview process of your life. You visit all of the sororities in Greek Land and talk to millions of girls to figure out which sorority you want to join, while they figure out if you should join them or not. Each day gets more intense as the list of possible houses to join gets smaller and you spend more time in your chosen houses. After an exhausting week Becca and I joined a sorority – Sigma Kappa.
We chose to move into the sorority house as quickly as possible, fondly known by the women of Sigma Kappa as the White Castle. Living in a sorority reminded me of what I imagine living in a boarding school to be like. You share a room with either one girl, two or even three – completely different from England where you have a room to yourself. I absolutely loved it. Our sorority had a bedding situation that was entirely peculiar to me, and when I tell people about it now they still don’t believe me. Rather than having beds in our rooms we all slept in massive rooms called cold airs. Cold airs are ALWAYS dark and ALWAYS cold. It’s a massive room with a lot of bunk beds, everyone has their own bed and is in charge of getting their own linen etc. In the middle of Summer all of the windows are always closed and the air conditioner is in full swing. The first night I slept in cold airs in the middle of August, while it was about 35degrees outside I froze underneath my sheets. In the middle of winter they open all of the windows. Let me tell you something about Iowa – in the winter you freeze.
The first thing anyone would tell me when I asked about winter was “you’re going to need a North Face” these brand-loyal Americans were not wrong. My North Face jacket absolutely saved my life. Back to cold airs – picture the scene: pitch black -30degrees outside and it’s snowing, you’d think we would close the windows right? WRONG. Cold airs – always cold.
There were lots of other awesome aspects about living in a sorority though. You were always with friends, there was always food in the fridge and always many an activity occurring. There were also fun little aspects to it that made you feel like you were in a club, that you really shared a bond with these women – every Wednesday everyone in Greek Land would wear their letters. Any piece of clothing that had the Sorority or Fraternity name or letters on it counted. That being said, everyone wore their letters all the time anyway! I still have so many items of Sigma Kappa clothing that I find myself in all the time. Also, in any photo opportunity the girls would make the Sigma Kappa hand gesture urging the other girls to “throw what you know”
Each semester different events happen like Homecoming and Greek Week, where the sororities and fraternities are paired up and compete against each other. We did things like Yell Like Hell which involved a skit, a routine, stomping and a lot of shouting. Another fun event was Lip Sync which also involved a skit, a routine, some interesting costumes and can you guess it? No yelling this time, lip syncing to a previously recorded tape.
All of these events were taken very seriously in the Greek community and there were committees in place to make sure that everything ran smoothly. One thing was for sure though – it all added to the spirit that is always felt in Greek Land. Becca and I are now alumni of Sigma Kappa but I know that this chapter of our lives will always hold an incredibly special place in both of our hearts. Though there is no equivalent in either England or South Africa there are a couple of similar opportunities to get involved with and experience that school spirit.
In England the sports teams with their initiations, Wednesday night partying and formal dinners remind me of Greek Land. And in South Africa what I have heard about going into Res sounds quite similar too. The best thing that Sigma Kappa taught me was the value of getting involved. I was able to get involved in so many philanthropic events and meet amazing people at the same time. I urge you to volunteer, try it out, make a difference, and never be embarrassed.