Monday, January 6, 2014

Ten Tips for New Members

I've been wanting to do a blog post like this for a long time. Every semester a new batch of New Members comes in. It's an exciting thing! I have realized throughout my Greek experience how much ONE new member class can change an organization, for bad or good. Here are some things I wish each New Member would know so they have the best Greek experience they can!
1. Get involved!
This is the number one thing that made my Greek experience what it was. I jumped in with both feet one semester after I had been initiated. I have never understood the people that are Greek that have never held a position. One of the largest benefits of being Greek is that it teaches you leadership skills! Take advantage of that. Run for a position, volunteer to be part of a committee. Do anything you can to be involved. Not only will it be extremely beneficial personally but it will be beneficial in your future career life. I also received many scholarships because of my leadership skills that AXO helped me to develop. Even if you cannot hold a position because of grades or something else, you can still be a leader. If a sister needs help setting up an event, go a little early and help her set up! If someone seems overwhelmed, offer to help. There are many ways to get involved and no excuses for not. 
2. Make the effort
One of the things I regret most is not making more of an effort to get to know some of my sisters. I got comfortable with about thirty sisters and so I did not feel the need to really go outside my comfort zone other than the basic "hey! how are ya!" interactions. Make the effort to get to know your sisters. Make a goal to take one sister out for coffee or whatever once a week. It's like $3.00 to you but it could mean the world to a sister that feels like she is not fitting in or who wishes she had more friends. It also will give more meaning to your sorority experience as you will feel like you actually know those who share your letters. 
3. Develop a love for the Greek Community
Another HUGE aspect of Greek life that I cannot emphasize enough. The bottom line about Greek life is if your Greek community fails, your chapter fails. Even if you are the best in your Greek community, that does not matter if your Greek community is struggling. You will gain so much by embracing other Greek organizations and developing a love for them. All of our Ritual's teach the same basic principles. The more hateful you become towards another organization is the more intolerant you become. No one will hire an intolerant person.
4. Develop a love for your organization
This took me a long time to fully understand but I felt like once I learned to love the actual organization of Alpha Chi Omega, I was a better sister. The concept of a Real, Strong, Woman is remarkable. A real woman has so much depth to her. A strong woman can endure any obstacle. Other things that took me a long time to understand, our Ritual, The Symphony, our philanthropy, all of these things are amazing and specific to Alpha Chi Omega and its' sisters. I became so much more emotionally connected to AXO once I developed this understand about the actual organization. 
5. You are always wearing your letters
I can't really explain this much better than T.J Sullivan but I really feel that this is crucially important. Letters are memorable, people in your classes or on campus or at work or WHEREVER will remember that you are involved with Greek life after you wear your letters a few times, dress in pin attire or mention that you are in a Greek organization. So people know that you are Greek and they will look for fault in order to prove the stereotypes they have in their head right. If you come in late to class even if you aren't wearing letters, everyone in that class will assume that all Greek members are late to class and are slackers. This is unfair but it's absolutely the truth. If you cannot handle the responsibility of being the face of any Greek member anywhere, then Greek life is absolutely not for you. 
Some people see this as a huge burden. I took it as an immense opportunity. It made me responsible for every action I took. It made me think twice about not paying attention in class or not being the most kind to someone working on campus. It made me a better person.
*I wish that we smacked all Greek new members in the face with THIS blog post.*
6. Appreciate the Hard Times
I had some of the best times of my life in Alpha Chi. I also had some of the worst. Those bad times when I thought my world was ending because I didn't get the position I wanted or because I got frustrated with my committee not helping me or whatever it was actually helped me grow. For example, the fighting that I did with my sisters led me to develop some amazing conflict resolution skills that I actually just used last week. I learned how to be an adult, apologize and move on. Another example is I went to an AXO conference by myself in Texas for a weekend. I bawled in the airport bathroom and in the hotel room because I didn't think I was old enough to fly to a different state all alone. But I did it and I became more independent because of it.
Recognize that hard times are just part of the deal and that they will help mold your unique experience.  
7. Respect Alumni
Another one I didn't understand until I was an alum. As an active member, I would get so frustrated with alum because they had no idea what was going on in the chapter. What I didn't realize is that alum want the best for their chapter. Be genuine with them, hear their concerns and maybe their concerns are valid and they can help give your current chapter problems direction. AXO Beta Xi is lucky to have some amazing alum that have helped us redo our house and made other huge positive changes. If they are involved it means that love your organization and want the best for it. 
8. Be Educated.
I knew that AXO had bylaws because I signed them when I was a new member but that is where my knowledge ended until I was elected Chapter Relations and Standards. I had to pour over those bylaws and know every detail. I was shocked at the things I found because I felt that I was not using AXO to its full potential. There were services that were in the bylaws such as intellectual development had to help me get a tutor for a class I was struggling in, etc. If I had know about these hidden gems in bylaws earlier on, I would have been a lot better off. There were also some things that were being enforced in our chapter that were NOT in the bylaws. For example, they were fining girls for not attending a certain event when it was not in the bylaws. Being educated about your bylaws, each position and your IFC and NPC bylaws will help you to be a more effective and reputable Greek member.
9. Don't Conform.
I'm not sure how to say this without proving certain stereotypes right. But fact is fact. Some people feel that they have to change their personal values in order to be influential in their Greek organization when that is just not correct. The women that were most looked up to in my chapter were the ones that kept their standards yet still were involved. I tried to be like these women. For example, the fact that I don't drink doesn't mean that I couldn't go hang out with my sisters that were at the bar. Just like you wouldn't want to be pressured to change your values, don't pressure your sisters or brothers to change theirs. I have seen women who were once A students be pressured to skip class, stop doing homework, etc. because their sisters were doing those things too. 
This lesson can be applied to so called "trivial" things as well. A woman in my Sorority didn't like wearing makeup, so she didn't! Despite our pleading during formal events. She didn't like it, she didn't wear it! 
Your organization will benefit if you are the truest version of yourself that you can be.
10. Create a Lasting Legacy
One of my sisters I really looked up to as a new member had a goal: Make AXO and the Greek community a better place because she was a member of it. As soon as I heard her goal I did everything I could to leave my Greek community and chapter a better place because I was there. A lot of the time this "big picture" idea was hard to focus on with trivial things getting in the way but I think I was a better Sorority Woman because of keeping a bigger perspective in mind. This could mean researching new ideas to implement such as a new way of grading or even teaching your littles how to uphold your organizations values or just being a good brother or sister. 
Work hard to make your membership mean something. Otherwise it's pointless for you to waste your time.
My Greek experience was one I will never trade for the world. It made me who I am today! It made me more confidant and it led me to meet some amazing people who will forever impact my life. 

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  1. Wow Riley this is fantastic! It's always nice to get a little perspective!

    1. Thanks Carly! You have always been one of the best examples of a true sister to me! L&L