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I came into my second year of college with one goal in mind: to get involved. The year before was really rough for me. I was transitioning from being surrounded by people I knew to being in a brand new state with people I didn’t know, adjusting to an academic work level that my high school did not prepare me for and I was in a very toxic relationship that crumbled my belief in myself. My plan for my second year was to come in with the knowledge I had learned from last year and a plan to do what I had wished I had done before.

I’ve always been curious about the Panhellenic sorority scene on campus. It’s a huge organization that is built on women bonding with each other and that really appealed to me as someone who has always had friendships with other women. I knew I didn’t want to rush freshman year because it would have been too overwhelming, and it still was stressful as a second year who had more knowledge about school and social life. The day of orientation I had moved in by myself after driving eight hours, so my experience wasn’t out to a great start. Then, add in the fact I had a fellow rushee refuse to share an umbrella when it was raining, which resulted in me getting sick and dropping out after two days. It wasn’t what I expected. Even if I didn’t need to drop, I probably wouldn’t have pledged. Many of the girls I met were great, but the experience wasn’t great for someone who just had the worst year of her life. My self-esteem was still pretty low and there’s this underlying pressure when joining a sorority to be the most entertaining, interesting, sweet, pretty and smart. In fairness, it isn’t a bad thing for an organization to be seen as a place full of the best people on campus, but the experience was too image-based for someone who trying to relearn vulnerability. If I was in a better place mentally, I might have liked it, but I needed an organization that would let me relearn that my true self is worth being wanted. I found that in a co-ed service fraternity.

It was spring semester of my second year, and I was already in two organizations that I was happy about. The idea of joining a third club was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go in. It was by chance that I saw the fraternity I would eventually end up joining. I was walking though Turlington with a friend when a couple of members were passing out flyers about their rush week. Like most students I would have walked past, but my friend was drawn to the plants on the flyers. We both took a flyer and upon returning to my apartment I took some time to research the club. I was interested, but I never thought a co-ed fraternity would be my thing.

I went into rushing for the fraternity with the mindset that I wouldn’t hide any part of myself, which was different from how I went into rushing for a sorority. There isn’t the same pressure with co-ed fraternities like Panhellenic sororities. Honestly, not knowing much about the organization lessened any pressure I would have felt. I knew that it was a service co-ed that was big about being inclusive, and those were enough reasons to want to join. The rushing events were very relaxed with fun activities and plenty of people to talk to. It was the first time at college that I felt like I found people I vibe with. There was no point in the process where I felt like I should drop. If anything, I was actually afraid that I wouldn’t get invited back to pledge. After a week of interacting with the brothers, I had laughed and bonded with more people than I had my previous year.

College can be a difficult transition when it comes to social life. There are so many different ways to meet people that it feels like you’re speed dating clubs. What you may think will be a good fit for you may end up not being a good fit. It’s important to go into looking at different clubs with an open mind because you may find yourself unexpectedly enjoying them. Looking back on things, I would have still rushed for a sorority, but I would have been more opened to co-ed fraternities and other clubs. I could have missed meeting people that helped me relearn to love myself if I wasn’t at Turlington with a friend by chance. College is all about new experiences and being surprised by what we find.

Racheal Jones is a senior at the University of Florida studying Sociology. She's completed research on family violence and is currently working on a new research project. She loves Marvel movies, sapphic fantasy novels and Taylor Swift. Outside of school, she's learning how to roller skate, take care of her plants and rock climb.
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