As I sit on the floor of my room looking around for some inspiration about what to write about this week, I’m realizing that I’ve somehow managed to miss what is literally right in front of me, all around me and on me — not seeing the woods for the trees and all that, I guess.
No, that wasn’t the clue to some sort of frustratingly simple riddle — this week is **secret week**. My room has been completely covered in presents from my wonderful big. There are t-shirts and handmade canvases and a massive flag on my wall (don’t worry AMR II RAs, it’s not a fire hazard) and balloons and baked goods from my gbig (aka my big’s big), and the amount of time and love that has gone into all of this is incredible.
I actually don’t want to move anything because it looks so pretty, which is why I am currently sitting on the floor of my room and not on my t-shirt covered bed or my balloon covered desk.
For anyone who doesn’t know what secret week is, it’s basically one week where all the “littles” in a sorority (aka new members) are showered with love and affection (aka t-shirts, food and serenades) from their “bigs.” This all leads up to “reveal” at the end of the week i.e. when the littles find out who their bigs are (hence the name “secret week” — it all kind of makes sense right?).
Anyway, while that might all seem obvious to most (if not all) Americans reading this, the idea of secret week, bigs, littles and even sororities in general is an entirely foreign one for anyone that’s well... foreign. I can’t speak for every country (I haven’t done my research), but at least for me, as a Brit, my knowledge of sororities before coming to Hopkins was limited to whatever I had seen in American movies.
I tried my best to not form assumptions about what sororities were like, but I can’t pretend that when I told my friends I was definitely going to university in America, one of their first questions wasn’t “God, you’re not going to join a sorority are you?” or that my reply wasn’t “Do I really seem like someone that would join a sorority to you?”
I’m not writing about this because I want to convince anyone to join a sorority or to change anyone’s minds about what they think about them. But when explaining to my friends, or attempting to explain to my friends, what happens during secret week, I realized that it makes absolutely no sense.
Just from my obligatory Snapchat story yesterday (day one of secret week) I have already had so many messages from my friends back home. The messages range from, “What the hell is Hotterthanachili Mylittlemilly??” (The Facebook page my big made for me) to “Are they hazing your bedroom?” to “Wow you’re so American now.”
Ironically, the friend who sent me that last message actually has dual citizenship and is American... but clearly as someone who is now in a sorority, I am the most American of the two of us — maybe I was actually given American citizenship as well as a bunch of t-shirts on my bed yesterday...?
The point I’m trying to make is that Greek life in general is a very American concept. The closest thing we have to it in the UK are probably sports clubs or a few boys’ clubs and secret societies at Cambridge (The Riot Club would be our equivalent to Animal House I guess...) which are not really the same thing at all. Apparently (according to Google) there are a few frats in London and Scotland, but I doubt they are anything like our idea of frats.
When trying to explain to my friends what I’ve been doing with my sorority so far or even just what’s been happening for secret week, none of it makes any sense to them. And, when you think about it, there’s not really any way to explain why a group of boys sang to you outside of the library after class or why your room is covered in t-shirts and balloons and cakes.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m enjoying this week, or my sorority, any less because of it — they’re all probably just jealous anyway. I can’t wait to do all of this for my little next year.