Feeling Welcomed in My Sorority Through Ritual and Building Relationships

"I encourage all young women to consider joining a sorority because there are no stereotypical sorority women, and we all have something to learn from each other no matter where we come from."

A few short years ago, I was highly skeptical of sororities. I was extremely proud of not being “like other girls” and didn’t see myself reflected in my stereotypical idea of a “sorority girl.” I was definitely a nerd, I didn’t understand fashion or makeup and my appearance often fluctuated from halfheartedly feminine to somewhat androgynous. I spent my high school years as an uptight speech and debate champion and thought I was better than everyone.

When I was choosing a college, I was set on recreating “the best four years of my life” high school experience by going to a college with a nationally recognized speech and debate team. I imagined myself traveling the country to write intellectual think pieces and winning shiny trophies. I was disappointed to find that the reality of my freshman year was a little different. I spent the year in an on-again, off-again relationship with the speech and debate team because I was trying too hard to fit into their boxes, and I had to bend over backward to make friends. When I finally realized how miserable it was making me, quitting the team was a difficult decision because I thought that was the place for me.

Searching for an Organization With Goals and Values

In high school, I never had a dull moment as I was always a captain of something, a president of something, a leader. I tried to join a few college clubs that sounded fun, but they were too casual for what I wanted. They only met a couple of times a month and the members did not really share common goals or values. When I reunited with my high school friends and told them my big college plans had fallen flat, they gushed about their sorority experiences. Confused and still skeptical, I agreed to take their word for it and give it a shot. I figured I would make a few friends, have fun playing pretend and taking cute Instagram pictures for a few weeks, then drop just to say I had the experience. If I am being honest, part of me was secretly hoping I would fall in love with it. As an only child, I craved a sisterhood, and what my friends described sounded like exactly what I was looking for – leadership, a full schedule, shared goals and values and women supporting women.  

After receiving my bid, the first aspect of sorority life I connected with was my organization’s ritual. I always listened closely when our president read from the ritual book. I took note of how our values were immersed in each part of our ritual and how each ceremony fit with the next like pieces of a puzzle.

When I took my initiation vows, I sincerely wanted to use what sisters before me had written so I could become the best sister I could be. As a junior, I joined the ritual committee, taking enormous pride in setting up our simple and beautiful ceremonies so our new members had the opportunity to appreciate them as deeply as I did. As semesters passed and I attended ceremony after ceremony, thinking of my sisters past and present across the state and country and it made me realize what a huge sisterhood I was truly part of. When I looked around at the variety of smart, passionate women in my chapter, I felt a sense of pride and comfort that we all wear the same pin and swear to uphold the same vows. I had finally found the lasting sisterhood I had been looking for.

Seeing Beyond the Stereotype

By far the thing I love most about sororities, regardless of chapter, council or school, is that they bring different women together to admire and appreciate one another’s strengths. When I first joined my chapter, it took me a while to come out of my shell. When I moved into the chapter house, I struck up an unexpected friendship with a woman who lived down the hall from me named Shay. She was a self-assured, tomboyish business major whose biggest passions were cats and serving in the National Guard. We were pretty different, but we both wanted the same things out of the sorority experience. She ended up becoming my best friend, and even though her major and career goals were worlds away from mine, I cheered her on all the way to graduation.

It was my friendship with Shay that helped me realize how the individual women in my chapter came together to build a strong organization. Nothing helped me get over my internalized misogyny more than becoming sisters with the kind of women I thought I was better than and realizing I had a lot to learn from them.

During my first month of living in the house, I came down with a horrible flu that caused me to miss half of recruitment. Every time I woke up, I saw a different sister who was popping into my room to bring me medicine or a snack. Recognizing and overcoming my own implicit bias made me a more open, humble and caring sister. Now, I love talking to women who see the same sorority stereotypes I did and telling them how my amazing sisters have helped me grow. I encourage all young women to consider joining a sorority because there are no stereotypical sorority women, and we all have something to learn from each other no matter where we come from.

Eden Henrikson

Eden is a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma from the Epsilon Omicron chapter at Illinois State University. She is a first-generation college student studying elementary education and graduating in December 2020. She is also a member of the Golden Apple Scholars. Her family is from New Zealand and she has a strong accent when she is around them!

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