When I was applying to college during my senior year of high school, I truly had no idea what university I would end up attending. I never had a dream school, a dream major, or a dream campus. Fast forward a year later, and I have never been happier to be where I am today.
When I visited Gainesville for the first time, I only had 24 hours to determine whether I could see myself living in a small college town or not. Being from Miami, everything was so different and unfamiliar. The streets were smaller, the population demographic was slightly younger, and the weather was surely something to consider. After a long and busy 24 hours, I grew to love the town’s feel, and I paid my UF enrollment deposit a week later. Coming from an all-girl high school, I understood what the meaning of sisterhood was, but I never truly appreciated it until it was gone. After graduation, everyone was going their separate ways and embarking on new beginnings. To me, that feeling of having people there for you was something I found comfort in. At first, the idea of being in a sorority was not appealing to me at all. You see and hear all these stereotypes about girls in sororities. Regardless of all these labels, I decided that maybe rushing in the fall was not such a bad idea. And boy was I stood corrected.
The first day of recruitment is a day that will be engraved in my brain forever. Thousands of girls, thousands of recruitment bags, thousands of mini fans. I felt like I was in a fever dream. Going in with no expectations whatsoever, the first day truly opened my eyes. The multiple conversations I had that day taught me so much about how different everyone is. In Miami, everyone practically lives in their own bubble. You run into someone you know almost every time you leave the house. But here, I was talking to girls from all over the country. Every person had their own unique story and background, meanwhile I was here thinking that recruiters followed a robot script. At this point, I knew that I had made the right decision to get over my prejudices and take a leap of faith.
Fast forward to bid day: probably THE best day of my entire first semester. My heart was beating a mile a minute while I was sitting in the O’Connell center anxiously waiting to open the little envelope with my name on it. When I opened the letter, I was overcome by such a strong feeling of happiness that everything seemed perfect in the world. Getting up and running to the main entrance to only see a group of girls just as excited as I was, I knew I was where I was meant to be. Running home to the bamboo castle is probably one of the best things I have ever experienced. The immediate love from every single girl was incredible. And it only got better from there.
Now, almost done with my first full year of undergrad, I can say that I am at one of the best places in my life. The community I have found, the academics that have helped me learn so much, and the constant support from my fellow pandas have all helped me thrive in this new chapter of my life. Even though I came to UF with a good number of friends that I knew from home, it does not compare to the friends I have made while being involved in a sorority. Whether it is a simple wave on campus or an hour-long conversation at dinner before chapter, I know that every single one of my sisters truly values and appreciates me.
Although I was skeptical at first, being a member of the Panhellenic community is probably my favorite aspect of my college life so far. Now, I spend so much time encouraging people to get over their fears and join Greek life. My Alpha Omicron Pi sisters are people that will be in my life for the rest of my life. So, if there is anything you learn from my story, just know that no matter what, there is always space for you to grow and become the best version of yourself with sisters by your side.
Gianna, an Alpha Omicron Pi Sister