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Greek life used to make me shriek. As a result of growing up in a southern college town, the words fraternities and sororities became synonymous to me with partying, money, and stupidity. Even though I viewed Greek life in a negative way, I still made the decision to go through recruitment this year. To be honest, I’m not really sure why. When people asked, I would tell them that sorority sisters form tight bonds and I was interested in that. But, I suspect I also saw it as some form of rebellion against my parents, who were not fans of the whole Greek Life culture. Whatever the reason was, the week of orientation, I entered my information onto the sorority recruitment page and was ready to go.

There was only one problem: on Saturday, Sept. 5, the first day of recruitment, I woke up at 9:30 a.m. — an hour after recruitment had already started.

When I realized the time, I frantically emailed the MIT Panhellenic Association. As I finished the email, I came to the realization that my sorority experience was already over since I had just missed the beginning. Luckily, Panhel proved me wrong. Thanks to the awesome VP of recruitment, Liz, I was able to still take part in the process. I ran over to the Student Center with my hair barely combed. Any chances I had of looking nice that day were over.

When I arrived, I made it upstairs to my assigned group, where a temporarily unaffiliated sorority member began explaining to me that I would be attending five “parties” that day. My stomach started to turn. These parties consisted of talking and would end with a judgement made by both the sorority and myself. It seemed like a terrible mix of speed dating and interviews, both of which I did not have much experience in.

At the end of the day, I felt miserable. The process was overwhelming. I feared that no sorority would mutually select me and I was tired from holding superficial conversations with awkward silences. What brought me back the next day was the fact that there was not much going on on campus, and it was probably a better idea than just staying in my room all day.

Going back turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in the past few years.

Days 2 and 3 of recruitment were a blast. I got to see the nice, clean, and pretty sorority homes, which looked like great alternatives to dorms. The houses substituted globs of dust and holes in the wall with beautiful wooden floors and fun, spiral staircases that created a homey feeling, which I found missing from the dorms. More importantly, the conversations I had on those days felt natural. I laughed and talked about everything from the struggle of finding the right clothes to the messiness of eating food. Nothing I said that day felt forced and the number of awkward silences in conversations was close to zero. The sense of community that the upperclassmen always talked about finally started to seem real.

The whole process finally ended on Tuesday with bid night. All of the girls who went through recruitment found out their new homes on this night. When I received my envelope, I ran to my assigned room. My mind filled with flashbacks to all of the other times in my life when I had excitedly opened mail: birthdays, college acceptance letters, and packages from my favorite online store. There was one difference this time: I saw what was inside even before I opened it. My sorority letters caught the light and reflected through the envelope. The anxious butterflies in my stomach went away and was replaced with the warm, glowy feeling of joy. A great big smile spread across my face as I officially opened the letter. Afterwards, I ran to wait in line with the other new members. Then, it was my turn to walk in.

It wasn’t what I expected. It was better.

I was greeted by a giant hug and the most cheerful screaming of my life. The rest of the night was even better, as I got to meet more of the amazing people. Everyone was ecstatic. People I had never met before rushed to give me hugs and gave me a warmer welcome into their sisterhood then some of my own family did. They were even willing to dance in front of me, something I wasn’t ready to do yet. But the idea that I would one day be so happy as to dance in front of forty new strangers, along with some of my best friends, made me realize that my new home was where I belonged.

I went to bed that night with a grin on my face. What started out as a scary and long process ended with me joining a phenomenal group of women at MIT. Over the next four years and beyond, I cannot wait to see where my Alpha Chi Omega family will take me.

Michal Shlapentokh-Rothman is a member of the Class of 2019.