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What It’s Like to be on the Other Side of Rush

As a freshman, I HATED rush week.
Running from house to house against the arctic winds; scrambling out of my UGGs and into my high heels before each round; having the same conversation about my major and hometown over and over until my voice was hoarse…the whole process was, to me, totally exhausting and completely insincere. But more than anything else, I hated feeling judged. Each of us would get a little slip of paper every morning that listed the houses to which we had been invited back that day, and every day there was some disappointment, some house I’d loved that had cut me, some bitter tears shed while walking in the bitter cold. I took every cut as a personal blow, a sign that a group of girls thought I wasn’t cool enough to be their sister.

But this year, everything changed. Going through rush as a sister, I realized the process is nothing like I imagined last year. While as a freshman, I thought I was being judged on every aspect of my physical appearance and personality, I realized as a sophomore that sisters are forced to make snap judgments on girls based on their conversations, and if the conversation was just OK or we didn’t connect that well, then that was that. We talked to so many girls that we couldn’t make ANY cuts based on personal likes and dislikes, and we were more focused on simply getting through the rounds without any logistical disasters than on judging each and every PNM that filed through our door.

And without the pressure of having to impress a million sorority sisters, I figured out what rush was all about — my sisters! Before rush week, I had a terrific group of friends, and I loved them, but I couldn’t say I was best friends with every single girl in my house. But during rush, we all had to camp out in the kitchen until 3 a.m. every night, practicing our skit, chowing down on horrible Ithaca pizza, and organizing rooms for house tours. And as insanely annoying as that may sound, the experience brought us closer together like nothing ever had.

This week, I realized that girls who I may have thought were quiet or reserved are actually laugh-out-loud funny, as they stole the show during skit practice, or that girls that I usually only saw eating cereal in their pajamas actually have KILLER shoe collections (which they generously donated to my closet for the week). I may have made about 20 new friends since I started pledging, but in one week I made 100 more. While on the first day it may have been awkward for me to even say hello to a girl I didn’t know too well or someone in an older pledge class, by the end of the week I was totally comfortable talking to every single girl in my chapter. Before the beginning of the week, I was totally intimidated by the seniors and their amazing clothes, by the end of rush my friends and I were all partying at their apartment above Starbucks. And never in my life have I sung a song with more enthusiasm than the last refrain of our final skit song (to the tune of “Livin’ on a Prayer”…it’s just as corny as you can imagine it to be). So for all you freshmen (and sophomores) who just joined a sorority, don’t worry — rush gets better! You’ll soon learn that rush, like everything else about being in a sorority, isn’t REALLY about appearances. It may seem like a totally superficial, totally overwhelming and, in a sense, totally pointless process, but from inside the doors of the sorority houses, no week makes me feel more proud of my sisterhood, and no week makes my sorority experience seem more real.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a video of Cornell AEPhi’s 2010 rush skit. If you can’t guess, I steal the show as Rachel Zoe about a minute and a half in…enjoy!

Amanda First is a senior English major at Cornell University.  She is Life Editor of Her Campus, as well as founding editor of Her Campus Cornell. She has interned for Cornell Alumni Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Parents through ASME's internship program.  Some of her favorite things include high heels, browsing ShopBop, yoga, The O.C. reruns (but only before Marissa dies), and Tasti D-Lite. After college, she hopes to pursue a career in magazine journalism.