This weekend, one of my dreams came true. I've always wanted to be at college but not have to go to class or do schoolwork or fall into a robotic social routine. As much as I enjoy the Bucknell culture, I've recently been itching for a change. When I reluctantly joined the Greek forces my sophomore year, I continued to wonder what my college experience would be like without the structure of a sorority.
On Saturday morning, I drove down to the charming little college town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to celebrate my 21st birthday. While my birthday may have been over a week ago, who doesn't want to celebrate themselves for two weeks instead of one day? When I arrived, I met up with a bunch of my friends that are working on campus and have been raving about how much fun summers are at Bucknell. Despite my friends' enthusiasm, I must admit I was cynical as I drove into Lewisburg. However, after tubing down the Susquehanna River with a group of other amateur adventure-seekers, my friends were right. Even trekking barefoot down the highway for miles in a bikini did not spoil the fun.
While I was thrilled with my weekend, I am an American after all and I'm greedy. Why couldn't college be this fun all the time? What was I doing wrong my first three years here as a student? Oh, right. I'm a student. I have papers, group projects, literary magazine editor meetings, and intramural basketball games. I made an effort to balance my social life and schoolwork, and I can't say I regret any decision to hang out with friends rather than my books on a Saturday night. Then what was so different about being at college during the summer?
During the summer, there is no 'socially acceptable' behavior driven by the Greek system. Like other small, private institutions located in rural areas, the Greek system seems to permeate all aspects of campus life. As a first-year student scoping out the scene, I wrestled with the pros and cons of joining a sorority the following year and I felt an incredible pressure to make the right choice that would determine by fate for the next three years. Did I want to have a fulfilling social life? Did I want to make close friends with people who share similar interests and values? Did I want guaranteed housing in one of the best dorms on campus? I answered yes, as did most of my friends, to these questions.
While there are obvious advantages to going Greek, I think the rigid social dynamic has proven to be a disadvantage. In the summer, without registered Greek parties or campus events, everybody comes together. I found myself socializing with all kinds of people, whether they were in a sorority or fraternity or graduated a few years ago. Normally, I would have made the decision not to engage with someone because he or she has a certain Greek affiliation (I promise this is not because I'm unfriendly or antisocial). The unfortunate truth is that due to my status on campus -- insert sorority label here -- I likely would not socialize with a student that is in a more popular or less attractive Greek organization. Although I have reaped the benefits of belonging to a sisterhood, I am not proud to admit that I am part of a system that advocates exclusion and superficiality.
For a short period of time this weekend, I felt a refreshing sense of being label-free. Now I'm a senior preparing to enter the "real world" where people couldn't care less about my Greek affiliation. I often wonder how I will adapt to this new social scene and how long it will take for the "you're not in college anymore" message to sink in. While there may be not be a complete escape from social hierarchy and cliques even in the "real world," it's worth questioning the rules from time to time.