Can independents get the true “DePauw experience?”

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Greek life is something that I’ve witnessed as integral to “the DePauw experience,” a term that I was glaringly unaware of as a first-year back in 2019. But, what is “the DePauw experience” even?

Growing up in a non-American household, I did not  know what Greek life was until I was 16 or 17. As a result, when formal recruitment came around in January 2020, instead of jumping at the opportunity to learn what all the buzz was about, I shied away from panhellenic “rush” and quietly judged girls whom I thought spent way too much time on self-tanning and  perfecting their winged eyeliner. 

I remember my entire floor talking about pros and cons of each house and spilling the tea as they complained about having blisters after a long day of walking to different Greek houses. I witnessed many happy and sad tears from girls who either did or did not get into their preferred houses. 

I just did not understand. The concept of Greek life eluded me, so I quietly judged. I thought, “How can you cry about those stupid houses? I mean, they look pretty, but still…” 

It turns out, I was wrong. Well, not totally wrong. I think I had a point there, but still halfway wrong.

People have different ideas on what they want their college experience to be like. I knew right from the start that I was in school to learn, get my degree, and move onto the next big thing. One thing was clear to me: I wanted opportunities and a small circle of friends so I wouldn’t completely lose my mind in rural Indiana, especially as someone who’s mostly lived in big cities in Europe.

Some students were raised to think that rushing is an essential part of the college experience. Some just want to party. Some want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Regardless, everyone wants something different out of their next four years here. 

After the initial buzz of rush in 2020 died down, the COVID-19 pandemic started and brought many issues to the table. I spent half of my first year and the entirety of sophomore year at home and kept in touch with the small group of independent friends I had made prior to the pandemic. At that point, Greek life was not even on my mind anymore. Fast forward to now, I am getting ready to graduate with that same group of friends. 

Do I regret writing off Greek life completely? Maybe. Do I still have a social life? Absolutely. However, I wish I would have given Greek life a shot in my first year because I am curious as to what would have happened if I had. Am I missing out on the petty Greek drama and cold dorms that are just perfect if you are dying to get COVID-19? Probably. 

Let’s go back to the question I posed earlier: “what is ‘the DePauw experience?’”

Is it getting Marvin’s at 1 a.m. after coming back from a party? Is it living by the stadium and having to put up with DePauw sports teams’ mediocre playlist multiple times a week? Is it stressing about that 30-page Honor Scholars research paper? Or maybe it’s being jealous of Phi Psis because their house has the best location on campus. Yes. yes. And yes. It can be anything. Anything you want. Maybe it’s time to reframe the concept of “the DePauw experience” in a way that includes a bigger variety of experiences that falls outside of Greek life.