Wednesday, 3 September 2014

It Was All Greek To Me: How Joining A Student Group Can Impact Your University Experience

I moved to Edmonton from Grande Prairie. The population was only about 55 000; that’s about 20 000 more than the University of Alberta. As such, Edmonton was a drastic change from my previous small town life. I felt swallowed whole: surrounded by more people than I had probably seen in my life. My future seemed daunting.

I couldn’t even see the stars at night!

I soon calmed those fears though. Within a short period of time, I began to make friends. And I made some of them in places I had never expected; namely, a fraternity. So, how did that happen?

On the first day of Orientation, I walked through Clubs Fair and I made a point of stopping at any booths that appeared interesting; there were a few service clubs, a Tolkien fan club… wait… IS THAT A MARIO CHESS SET!?! (Yes, I almost joined the chess club because of a Mario-themed chess set). I remember turning a corner into a row of booths adorned with symbols I had only seen before during my high school physics class. The men who stood at the booths were dressed in suits or wore t-shirts with wordplay based on Greek letters. I was not quite sure what I had just walked into.

I was standing around for a second before one of the guys beckoned me over. After our short introductions, he began to share what was obviously a rehearsed speech on fraternities and their benefits. I was only paying half attention, because really… he was in a frat. But at the same time, I could tell that he was nervous. That caught me off guard; weren’t these frat boys supposed to be cocky and self-assured? He continued to throw facts and figures at me, but I was not quite sold. I’m still not sure how it happened, but somehow I found myself writing down my phone number on their group signup sheet.

A week and a half later, I could barely even remember having even been at Clubs Fair. While playing some piano, my phone beeped. The text message read: “Hey, it’s Matt. We met at Clubs Fair. I was wondering if you want to come play Settlers of Catan tomorrow night.” 
Oh… right. I had given my number out. What was I thinking?  “Maybe. I might be busy.”

“Well, if you aren’t you should come out. I’ll send you the address”

“Ok. We’ll see.”

-24 hours later-

As I was standing at the front door of this house, wondering about what I was thinking, the door opened, and there stood someone I had never seen before. He asked me “Are you Chris?” How did he know my name? He introduced himself and the other people who would be joining the game. It was interesting to see the variety of majors and passions that were in the room. 
That night got me hooked. The fraternity members got me out of my shell. I was laughing, talking, and sharing stories: all things that I would have never normally done with a group of strangers. 

I continued to go out to events for the following weeks until the VP Recruitment pulled me aside and handed me a small card.

“You are being offered a bid. We want you to join our organization.”

Again, a bit naively, I said…


Looking back, this was a pivotal moment for me; I still feel the effects of this single decision today. 

That’s how I came to join a fraternity; yet I never thought I would have. But it was not about high academic achievement, networking opportunities, or leadership skills. No, I joined because I walked into a room of complete strangers and felt like it was home. People completely unlike me, but similar at the same time, genuinely wanting to learn more about me and share their experiences with me.

As I now enter my fourth year in my fraternity, I can look back on my time and notice the drastic growth that I’ve made; I’ve gone from being a shy, small-town music student to a respected leader in both the Greek, and the broader campus communities. I have been able to meet alumni from the past 80 years who have achieved success in many forms and attribute that to their time as a fraternity member. I have debated the successes and failures of the Idaho education system with people I had met half an hour earlier, chastising each other like we had known each other for decades. I have been both a shoulder to cry on at 3am, and then a helping hand at 9am. I’ve even had people across the country contact me to help them improve their own organizations. I have been involved in so many initiatives and events and situations that I would have never even dreamed about before joining.

I’m not here to tell you to join a fraternity: it is not for everyone. But I know the experiences of many of my brothers, and many of my friends in other fraternities and sororities have changed lives. Knowing that you can walk into a room of thirty… sixty… four hundred complete strangers, and feel like somehow you just belong even though you don’t even know their names, is an amazing feeling. That is a feeling that can make positive change. That is a feeling that I believe every person should get to experience. Fraternity is an opportunity like no other; one where friends become family.

Also check out "Ten Ways to Get the Most out of Clubs Fair"

----About the Author


My name is Chris, and I have a problem; there is too much to do at the University of Alberta! How can you go to class when there are concerts, philanthropy initiatives, services days, food specials, and so many interesting people all over the place?

I am in the sixth year of my Bachelor of Music with a concentration in Trumpet Performance. When I am not practicing, you can find me planning the University of Alberta Dance Marathon, planning community service events for my fraternity, two-stepping all night long at Cook County, or discovering the best restaurants in Edmonton. I also love long walks through the River Valley and enjoy looking at pictures of cute puppies by candlelight while watching romantic comedies—that’s only partially a joke.

I am excited to be writing for YouAlberta this year. I’ll be bringing you insights into some of the hidden gems of the University of Alberta experience. Stay tuned for more about YOU!


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