“Are you in a house?” “No.”
“Are you on a team?” Again, I answer, “No.”
This conversation is followed by an explanation of how I transferred to Lehigh this past fall. I further mention how because of Panhellenic rules and my less-than-Division I athletic abilities, I can’t get involved with either group.
“Well, um, what do you do then?”
Coming to this school I knew the situation I was getting myself into. I did my research and found that over a third of undergraduates are members of Greek life and16 percent are student athletes. The groups don’t make up the vast majority of the school, but it sure can feel like it.
Yet here I am.
Many people say I’ve put myself in an impossible situation by attending Lehigh — a school dominated by Greek and athletic social scenes.
It’s so easy to fall into the mentality that just because you don’t have Greek letters you are automatically going to be alienated by the people who do. Everyone on the Hill seems to know each other by a distant connection at the very least.
In addition, with weekly schedules packed with lifts, practices, games and tournaments, the athletic community can seem like a different world, nonexistent to those who remain at the bottom of the mountain.
The difficulty is it’s automatically assumed that participation in either Greek life or athletics is necessary in order to be socially happy at this school. If you fall into the “none of the above” category, such as myself, you must be a nerd who only wants to hang out in Fairchild-Martindale Library or someone who wasn’t cool enough to get into the house they wanted.
These speculations are completely untrue.
It is far from impossible to navigate Lehigh without a specific social status. More importantly, blaming those who do affiliate with these groups based on broad assumptions is not the answer.
“Athletes only want to hang out with other athletes.”
“Greeks are exclusive.”
“I can’t talk to her, she’s in *insert sorority here* and we never mix with them.”
Everyone knows the classic line — “Who do you know here?” I would like to challenge everyone to relate that question to their own connections at Lehigh. Do you have friends outside of your core activities? Athlete, Greek or neither, do you expand your social circle outside of those like you?
Distancing yourself from those in different groups than your own creates a further divide. The social lines we have drawn are not set in stone and there’s no rule saying they cannot be crossed.
I’ve never once felt excluded or rejected from a social group because of my non-Greek, non-athlete status. Coming to Lehigh as a transfer, I entered with the mentality that I would not let the ideas of social hierarchies affect my experience. I looked to meet anyone and everyone by doing my best to be kind, friendly and non-judgmental.
What did I learn? Students at this school are more open to meeting new people than public opinion might suggest. If you are genuine and respectful to individuals on this campus, more often than not they will be receptive.
I live with athletes, socialize with Greeks and involve myself in organizations composed of a variety of interests. I manage a varsity team and am a member of a service fraternity. I participate in academic clubs, club sports and a number of other groups on campus.
These activities have allowed me to meet a diverse group of people who I might never have talked to. Each individual shares a different Lehigh experience that they are excited and passionate about.
The friends I have made at this school are split between Greeks, athletes and those who are neither. And all of them are equally incredible in their own ways.
There might be a divide within the social groups at Lehigh, but it’s only because students continue to act upon it. Limiting who you interact with only hinders your own experience and the connections you will have the opportunity to make. Your Greek house, your rush process or your sports team isn’t the end-all-be-all determinant of whether or not you’ll be able to thrive at Lehigh unless you allow it to be.
It’s up to you to meet people outside of your own Lehigh bubble. Be open-minded to those who have chosen a different path at this school.
Say hello to the girl wearing different sorority letters in front of you at the Füd Truck and talk to the kid in your class who went on the Habitat for Humanity trip over winter break. Ask the boy who wears a Lehigh Athletics sweatshirt everyday how his season is going and ask the person in the Colleges Against Cancer T-shirt using the washer next to you when Relay for Life is.
So, “Who do I know here?”
I’m proud and thankful to say that after a little over a semester at Lehigh I know amazing people from all areas of campus, and each one has contributed to my love for this school. But I know there are still many more amazing people left to meet.
Annie Henry, ’18, is an associate visuals editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]