Finding a community of my own
“Do you guys want to hang Saturday night?” I text some guys I met during Welcome Week, the October of my freshman year.
“Sorry, we have to be at our frat party,” the reply reads. I already know I’m probably not getting in, as me being a guy would mess up the “ratio” of their party.
Next, I text some friends from home, firing off the same message, and a few minutes later my phone buzzes again with the same response.
“Sorry, we’re planning on going out to some frat parties.”
This scenario is what I went through from September until the beginning of March — the majority of my freshman year. I’d decided not to rush a fraternity during the first month of my freshman year, getting cold feet and sensing I wouldn’t be able to fit in. This led to a feeling of exclusion and as a freshman dropped in a new environment, it was difficult to cope with.
After a couple months of sitting alone in my dorm room on Saturday nights, I decided to go down the hall and start a conversation with the other people who were spending their weekends in the dorm because they too weren’t in Greek life. That was the point when I started to break out of my shell and realize there are other ways to enjoy the weekend that didn’t involve fraternity parties. And even though I may not be friends with most of these people from the dorm this year, I believe that the initiative I took to start conversations in the dorm allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and it made me feel like I was one step closer to finding my place at the University of Michigan.
I had come to realize there are many different directions to find a community at the University. When starting at the University of Michigan, I thought Greek life was a common thing that a majority of students did, while only about 18 percent of undergraduates actually are involved. There are other ways for me to make the most of my college experience and enjoy my time at the University that don’t involve having to shotgun a beer in a small, sweaty basement in order to impress my friends.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself and worrying about what I was going to do each weekend, I could stop comparing myself to the people who are out at parties with their new group of close friends. Most people, myself included, don’t become best friends with someone the instant they meet them. It seems that when you become part of a fraternity, you are immediately immersed in a community of people who you know you will be spending the majority of your time in college with. But building friendships took time for me, and eventually, I was able to find a community of my own.
Even though it didn’t happen in the first couple of weeks, I can say that during my second semester I finally found my community at the University. And that community is the amazing people at 420 Maynard St. that spend their time working for The Michigan Daily.
I remember walking into a mass meeting as a nervous freshman who wanted to get more involved with photography on campus. Once I joined the Photo section, I began to come in on a weekly basis to work at The Daily for production. Each time I came in, I spoke to more people. In the beginning, it was just other photographers who were around me doing similar things. As time went on, I began interacting with people not only who take pictures for The Daily, but also people from other sections too, such as Sports, Design and News.
Meeting these people — from fellow photographers to basketball-addicted sports writers — is really what allowed me to feel part of a community, and perhaps form a fraternity of my own. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of a fraternity is “a group of people associated or formally organized for a common purpose, interest, or pleasure.” In a way, I realized that I can still be part of a fraternity, even if it’s not the stereotypical fraternity I initially think of. The people of The Daily are always there for me when I need it, whether that be with academics or not. And I know that the building at 420 Maynard can be a place to go during both good days and bad days.
Still, from time to time during my sophomore year, I am reminded of the fact that I am not in a fraternity as I occasionally find myself alone on the weekends, looking for people to be with. When I do find myself alone, needing someone to talk to or do something to ease the stress of college, I know that I can go to 420 Maynard and the people of The Daily will be there.