Seven sororities and 11 fraternities form U of T’s Greek community and, contrary to popular belief, being a member of any one of them means more than just parties. One has to pay dues, spend time and effort on various meetings, and engage in activities during the school year. It is certainly not a small commitment, and can greatly add to the cost and pressure of university.
Greek life is busy — in a good way. Every house has at least one mandatory weekly chapter meeting, and there are regular social gatherings to bond with fellow house members. Some weeks have socials between fraternities and sororities. There are also philanthropy events, alumni events, semi-formals, and formal parties. The Greek community is an ideal place to open up one’s social circle and unite with other people who are seeking to share similar experiences.
However, joining in does not guarantee that you will make friends; you can’t just hold your drink and stick to the walls during parties. You have to make an effort to talk to people. Sometimes others come to you; sometimes you will need to approach them. After all, your interpersonal skills are what enhances any bonds you make with people. It takes effort from both parties to maintain a relationship.
My own experience with Greek life is defined by a sense of belonging. I came to Canada from China alone — a 13-hour time difference separates me from my family and friends. Within the Greek community, I finally felt the sense of belonging that I searched for in a foreign continent.
While I do not live in my sorority house, I spend a large amount of my free time there. My sisters and I cook and eat together while binge-watching Netflix. Sometimes we share stories of emotional ups and downs. More often we stalk random cute guys on social media and discuss their Instagram posts.
While there are numerous social opportunities and obligations attached to joining a house, they are generally understanding when it comes to prioritizing school over duties. Members understand that everyone is under a lot of academic pressure, and that it is okay to adjust your engagement with a Greek organization to account for classes.
If you scroll down my sorority group chat during the school season, the most common messages are ones that ask if any sisters want to go to the library together. Our education comes first. All houses have minimum GPA requirements to stay active and we reward high academic achievement.
Greek life is a community experience. It can be a great networking opportunity and a second home with your lifelong friends. It can be anything you want it to be, if you make a social and academic effort. How much and how good of an experience you get out of Greek life is totally up to each pledge to figure out.
Haley Sheh is a second-year Anthropology student at Innis College. She is The Varsity’s Associate Video Editor and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.