Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Like it, like it, love it, love it, PHI MU till I die!

Kaixo everyone,

Today's post is something I have been wanting to write about for a long time, and I am so excited to share it with you now! A little bit of background on myself. I went to college at the University of the Basque Country in Vitoria, Spain, where I majored in English Philology. I also did my junior year abroad in Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. For grad school, I moved to Illinois, and I've been at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for four years now.

My experience in Vitoria was alright, I made great friends and really liked my program, but I did not enjoy the city and went back home every weekend. Colorado was absolutely amazing. I enjoyed the place, the school, and the whole "American college" atmosphere. When I moved to Illinois, I expected something similar. Going to a Big 10 school is the "American college" idea on steroids. However, it is not the same to go to an American college to study abroad as going for grad school. As an international exchange student, you are the focus, professors consider your differences and you are traveling and enjoying life. As a grad student, you are no different than others, you need to work, and work HARD.

Both in Vitoria and Colorado, my social life was booming. I don't just mean I went to the bars constantly. I knew multiple people from different backgrounds and I got to hang out with different people all the time. Being in such a small graduate program in Illinois, my social circle is very reduced, and I am always with the same people. I have made lifelong friends here, but I often long for hanging out with different people and having friends outside of school.

So... I joined Phi Mu.

Wait... what? At 25? 3 years after graduating? How? Why? Let's start with Phi Mu itself. Phi Mu Fraternity (the full real name) was founded on March 4th, 1852 at Wesleyan College in Macon, GA, by the badass trio: Mary, Mary and Martha. It is the second oldest fraternal organization for women after ADPi, which was founded at Wesleyan just a few months before Phi Mu.

Now for how it happened. If you do not know, the University of Illinois, with 91 fraternities and sororities, has one of the largest greek schools in the nation. The demand is very high, and after leaving campus on 2011, Phi Mu was back in Fall 2016 to U of I. As per usual, the fraternities and sororities colonizing have a tent where they hand out fliers, goodies, and most importantly, inform potential new members about joining the organization. When I saw the bright pink tent of Phi Mu, I was like... what in tarnation? As a curious yet incredibly awkward girl that I am, I walked past many times and didn't stop to say hi. I know, I'm SUPER AWK. However, one day I saw they had donuts, and on my way back from Starbucks to my office, I asked what it was about.

The ladies that were by the tent, Keke and Alex, were super nice and helpful. They explained the process, how they were looking for a strong new member class to re-establish the chapter, etc. I let them know that I was a graduate student, yet they still invited me to get the goodies they were gonna have in the following days, and gave me information, including the e-mail of the Director of Extension.

So when I got back to my office, I thought about it, and I e-mailed her. I was aware that some sororities carry out the Alumnae Initiation process, whereby women that are not in college become alumnae sisters of the sorority, and I asked her about it. She put me in contact with Coley, who was in charge of extension on campus, and after meeting with her and discussing how it would work, the process started. After getting a recommendation and an invitation for membership, I was initiated November 12th, 2017, two days after my birthday. And let me tell you, it was the best birthday gift of all. You can see from the pics below that I was happy as a clam (dress from Rent The Runway)!

Dress from Lilly Pulitzer (old)
With Phi Mu, I've gotten to meet incredible women. It seems like such a cliché to say it, but it really is true. As an alumna, I do not get to hang out with sisters as much as collegiate members, but whenever the Chapter Consultants have invited me to chapter, or I have gone to philanthropic events or initiation, I have left with a sense of pride, determination and happiness.

As the Delta Beta chapter (the UIUC chapter) has just been re-established, there is a lot of work to do. Each chapter has a chapter adviser, but this one, apart from her, has different advisers for different areas. I am currently the Academic Excellence Adviser, and I work with the Academic Excellence Chair (shout out to Katie!) to help members reach their goals academically and professionally. Headquarters also placed two different chapter consultants for the fall and spring semesters. I started as an adviser in the spring semester, so I got to know the spring semester CCs, Maura and Allie, better.
With Katie (Dress: Lilly Pulitzer (old) // Earrings: Kendra Scott // Wedges: Steve Madden
With Maura and Allie

Working with the three of them, and the rest of advisers and chapter members has absolutely rocked my world. People still ask me if I'm in a sorority doing all the partying and all that. While sororities do have that social aspect, I do not do that. I probably would have if there were sororities at home or in Colorado, but joining as an alumna has been one of the greatest decisions. Some people think alumnae initiation is rare and sometimes they confuse it with collegiate membership. It is rare, but it is different, and it definitely does happen!

Some people have also asked me if I party with the girls (who are some years younger than me), or if I will live at the house. The answer is no. I provide guidance, help, or anything they may need that they think I can help with. I have gotten to know individuals and all their potential, and I have been able to see them succeed academically, professionally and as a chapter altogether. In exchange, I get a sisterhood of over 185,000 sisters in the US and beyond. Living by the same values and the same creed really do create this unexplainable bond, and I sure as hell will smile at anyone wearing my letters, strike a conversation with them or give them a hug. With so many women and so many differences, it is still amazing that Phi Mu bonds us.

If you are a college-aged girl or a grad student, I really, really encourage you to find your niche. Be it a sorority, club or volunteering organization, find a group of people who will empower you, help you thrive, lead you to find your passions, and also important, who will help you unwind and create new relationships with people. Phi Mu has helped me with all this, and I cannot wait to see how the following years will go.

- Ane

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