Melissa G. and Danielle M.

Joining Panhellenic In a Pandemic: From FSU Sigma Delta and Gamma Phi

For many aspirational young women, joining a sorority is the epitome of American college life. Girls grow up watching the social excitements of rushing, bid day, initiation and all the subsequent pleasures of being in a sorority and forming a whole new family all across popular media. With such an idealistic and fantastical conceptualization of being a sorority sister and its social and philanthropic benefits, pledges cannot help but hold expectations of what their own experience will be like. Unfortunately, with a deadly pandemic raging across America and its universities, the pledge classes of the 2020 to 2021 school year are facing an altogether different panhellenic process.

While I am exceptionally far from being a sorority girl myself, which I can confidently say is intentional, I watched my two suitemates, and now close friends go through the process of joining a sorority in the fall of 2020. Under the quite obvious assumption that the commencement of my suitemates’ Greek lives has not been ideal, I casually interviewed them on their restricted experience that is unknown to many students. So, without further ado, here is Danielle Marks of Sigma Delta Tau (top photo) and Melissa Greenfield of Gamma Phi Beta (bottom photo).

Danielle M. Original photo by Rose Jackson HerCampus (HC): What were your expectations of rushing? Did they differ from what it was actually like?

Danielle Marks (DM): I came into rush not knowing what to expect. I was nervous because there is a fear of the unknown. It exceeded my expectations. It was such a cool experience.

Melissa Greenfield (MG): Going into it was intimidating because you are going into something in which everyone already knew each other, and you’re the new girl. What you get out of it is what you put into it. As long as you introduce yourself and show kindness, it’s worth it.

Melissa G. Original photo by Rose Jackson

HC: What are the major changes to rushing and Greek life caused by the pandemic?

DM: Rush is usually in person. You’re able to go and see the houses, talk to the girls in person and have one-on-one bonding conversations face-to-face. But of course, we had to do that all over zoom last semester in August. It was weird but unique. We’ve never done what the girls did before the pandemic, so this is all we know.

MG: I thought it was going to be harder to connect with people on zoom rather than face-to-face. But I was wrong because we were still able to make meaningful connections on zoom. Everyone always says trust the process, but I was hesitant because this is a much different process, and I might not get to the place I’m meant to be. As long as you make the best of it, it’ll work out.

HC: Was the process of joining a sorority enjoyable despite the COVID-19 restrictions?

DM: It has been super easy to get involved, and we are still able to go to the house under restrictions. It has been super easy to meet people. This is how I met some of my best friends.

MG: I have an easier time connecting with people when we have something in common. So being in a sorority gave me a group of new people to meet that I already have something in common with. When you go to a big school, it’s hard to meet people, so being in a sorority has helped a lot. It helps, especially during the pandemic.

HC: What’s one aspect of Greek life that you feel you’re missing out on the most?

DM: The big panhellenic events or the events when multiple sororities and fraternities come together. We have homecoming coming up soon, but nothing is the same as it was.

MG: I’m missing out on everyone being in the same room together at once. With social distancing guidelines, we have to go to the house in shifts.

HC: What’s one positive aspect of Greek life that you find makes the social limitations worthwhile?

DM: The people I have met in my sorority and other sororities. I met my best friends in my sorority. I wouldn’t have met some of the amazing people that I have without being in Greek life and getting involved right away.

MG: Same!

HC: Has it been harder to meet your sisters and feel genuinely a part of the sorority?

DM: Yes and no. Obviously, for now, we’re not going to gather all together as a chapter. It’s been harder to meet people, but somehow, we found a way to make it work, and I love the people that I’ve met. I would love to meet more. If you don’t put in the effort, you’re not going to meet people.

MG: It is challenging. There’s no way I could say I’ve met everybody in my sorority. This is an obstacle you can get through if you put in the effort and reach out to people. Even if it’s uncomfortable at first, you can still make the most of it.

HC: What is Panhellenic doing to limit the spread to COVID-19 while still fostering a fun atmosphere?

DM: Panhellenic is currently following every CDC guideline, and most of our events are virtual. All Panhellenic and chapter meetings thus far have been on zoom. However, sororities have been allowed to hold in-person events with a maximum capacity of 50 people. If you are uncomfortable with going to an in-person event, there’s always an online option.

GM: We are still able to eat meals together at the house, but it is socially distanced with fewer people per table. We’re not allowed upstairs in the houses if we don’t live there. When someone in the sorority gets COVID, they’ll name people who they’ve been in contact with and reach out to those girls to make sure they get tested.

HC: Do you feel like you’ve still been able to choose the right sorority for you despite the rushing process being over zoom?

DM: Yes, definitely. Meeting in person with someone is different from meeting online, but the people that I’ve met are so amazing, and I know I picked the right sorority.

MG: I agree. I initially thought it was going to be hard to connect with people over zoom, but I was wrong. I didn’t know much about each sorority going into it, so I was already open-minded. I didn't have a preconceived notion of where I thought I needed or wanted to be. It all worked out for the best. You just have to trust the process.

HC: What advice do you have for future pledge classes who may face COVID-19 restrictions?

DM: Regardless if recruitment is in person or not, you have to go in with an open mind and don’t hold crazy expectations. Nothing is ever going to go the way that you plan it, especially if you have crazy high expectations. So keep an open mind and understand that anything can change last minute. Go with the flow.

MG: I would say the same.

While this heart-warming and encouraging interview could never convince me to join a sorority myself because I’m just too cool for school, as my suitemates put it, I genuinely hope this serves to encourage any aspiring future sisters to take the leap and get involved with Greek life, no matter how intimidating it may seem. Joining Panhellenic in a pandemic can be full of social challenges and discouraging circumstances, but as Danielle and Melissa both said, trust the process because it is all worthwhile. I know they could not be happier in their sororities, and every university girl out there deserves the happiness sisterly bonds can bring in such lonely times. Happy recruiting!

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