I, like most other students, started at GW as a nervous freshman, hungry to make friends and build the kind of social circle that had been so dear to me in high school.
But I was unsure where to start.
While the thought of joining Greek life had crossed my mind during the months leading up to move-in day, I figured the hype in the media and all I’d heard about from older friends – wild keggers, toga parties, random hookups – couldn’t be true.
Now, I’d never want to put down social Greek life. Two of my freshman roommates went that route and seemed to form strong bonds with their fraternity brothers.
Yet there’s a tragedy to our pop culture-fueled perceptions of college. Students aren’t afforded the chance to appreciate the vast amount of social opportunities that can be found outside of social Greek life – particularly those in alternative Greek organizations.
For anyone thinking about rushing in the spring, remember that your options do not stop at the traditional fraternities and sororities: The wealth of alternative Greek groups at this school should not be discounted. I found my place in Delta Phi Epsilon, a professional fraternity focused on international affairs.
As most of you know, the first night of college is when Greek houses get one of their moments to shine. Before classes start, before floor intermingling truly begins, before you’re able to get to know your roommates – the freshman throng materializes.
They stream out of Potomac House, Madison Hall and, most of all, Thurston Hall in short skirts and eyeliner, khakis and hoodies. They light cigarettes and take surreptitious swigs from bottles that once contained water. They huddle together, hungry for conversation, for relationships, for acceptance. The houses open their doors, watery beer flows and they try to seem like they’re not impressed, that this is all something they’ve seen before.
I’ll admit I was impressed and the upperclassmen standing in the doors and handing out beers struck me as undeniably cool. I began to get the impression that to penetrate this circle was to enter the social core of GW. It seemed so simple – spend a week eating free food, shake a few hands and you’re in.
Of course, I realized that it takes much more than filling a plate with BBQ or Chipotle to join any one of GW’s fraternities or sororities. Yet even more flawed was my belief that without an allegiance to a social fraternity, I would be adrift, alone at this school. It certainly wasn’t a fault of Greek life itself – that their showing on the first night was quite impressive.
However, all it took was my roommate haphazardly throwing a flyer for the “Delta Phi Epsilon Wings Night” on my desk for me to begin to see how wrong I was. As an international relations major, the idea of a “professional foreign service fraternity” intrigued me, although I felt that no professional or alternative Greek organization could match the social might of the social fraternities.
In a way, I was right. I ended up showing up to wings night, an alumni panel and a joint-hosted event on the Syrian war. And sure, not one of these events took place in a townhouse, and I couldn’t stride over to one with a T-shirt and shorts on, but something kept drawing me back.
That something was conversation. There are few things that can match a discussion in which both parties are passionate about the issue on the table.
Obviously, folks in social Greek organizations have meaningful conversations of their own. But it was during my interactions at DPE events that I first truly felt a connection to GW: Here were students who had grown up in such different environments – in different countries, even – yet they shared my same interests, were driven by the same passions. Disagreement was inevitable, but even then, the arguments were carried out logically, calmly, distinct from the fiery dialogue that is all too common in political confrontations.
Now, the interests of students at GW are so incredibly diverse that no one group could possibly lay claim to every one. But think about what you want to gain from any organization you join. For DPE and other alternative Greek groups, socializing is not the be-all and end-all of their existence. The majority are dedicated to causes and passions – like international affairs, service or majors like chemistry and history – and the secondary purpose lies in bringing people together.
Once people are tied by common interests, it becomes that much easier to build friendships that endure outside of meetings and events. These deep, long-lasting relationships become the ones that I, and so many others, were actually looking for on that first night of school.
Claude Khalife, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.