I've always had a tight-knit family, so when I got to college, I worried that being away from my parents and sister would leave me feeling unsupported and alone. Granted, like most young women entering college, I did feel isolated and insecure during the transitional period. What ends up making all those experiences different, though, is how each woman copes. Luckily for me, Alpha Phi introduced me to a family away from my own that fills the void and embraces me; I imagine many Phis across the nation feel the same way about their chapters and the communities they provide.
My favorite part about being in a sorority is the figurative and literal family it provides. Ever stop to think how brilliant the big/little system is? Having a big gives every member some special connections within their chapter, while also providing a mentor that has been through many things the little will go through in the future. I find it incredibly helpful and rewarding to have a big, grand big, and great grand big that can provide insight, support, and friendship.
In my experience though, the most important part of the relationship is remembering that it’s just that: a relationship. Sometimes I forget my big is my big because she has become my best friend. While I love the concept of bigs and littles, I think they work best when we forget about the label.
I remember meeting my big, Emily, last January on Bid Day while dancing next to each other in our house to celebrate; we hit it off immediately and became fast friends. Since then, we've both been through the ringer, dealing with incredibly personal and trying times, but never leaving each other’s side. I've learned so much about the person I want to be from her and gained a life long friend in the process. I think we would have been close friends whether or not she was my big, but the fact that I can say “she’s in my family” just feels so appropriate; Emily is my family.
Also, as many know, Charlottesville has been through a scary time this autumn with the tragedy regarding one of our students, Hannah Graham. Dealing with this personal loss on grounds, but also the global issue of safety and the dangers in the world surely makes a community miss their families back home. I’m lucky enough to say that having Emily at UVA with me through it all has made a huge difference; it’s comforting to have someone always looking out for you.
Remember the big/little relationship is, at its core, a system of support, mentorship, friendship and family. Think of ways that you can emphasize those aspects of your relationship, and it will most certainly reward you. Shoot your little a text and tell her you’re thinking of her and looking out for her. Maybe your big, who is searching for jobs in the “real world,” is stressed and could use a pick-me-up. You will get out of it what you put into it, just like any friendship. However, I can say from experience that investing in your relationship with your big or little can truly show you how spectacular this type of friendship can be.
Lauren Yevak is a collegiate member at Virginia (Zeta Iota). Learn more about Lauren by clicking here.