January 15, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: How to Tell You’re a Canadian, Eh (PHI)

During my time at ELI, I was often asked what life in the mysterious neighbouring country called Canada was like and what being an Alpha Phi there means. No, we don’t live in igloos or ride polar bears to school. Our diets don’t consist solely of maple syrup and poutine, and we don’t (all) have accents. Although collegian life in Canada is actually not so different from American life, Greek life does bare certain differences:

At Greek events, you usually know everyone in attendance
While one of the most obvious differences is the smaller chapter sizes, I was surprised to hear that some American chapters actually have similar numbers. Many people equate smaller chapters to less involvement and less Greek spirit, but they would actually be surprised to discover a tight-knit Greek community that is extremely committed to other communities as well as to each other. Yes, there are smaller numbers that attend Greek events, but you tend to know everyone in attendance and could easily strike up a conversation with anybody in the room. Familiarity helps build a strong connection towards the Greek community, yet welcoming new members keeps us on our toes to improve as a chapter. It’s the perfect balance.

Explaining to your non-Greek friends what Greek life is about
Ask me about Greek life and I have a 30-second elevator pitch prepared from all the times I've been asked this very question. Collegians here have all heard of Greek life, they just aren't sure what it entails in Canada. I go on to explain all our philanthropic and community involvement, the leadership opportunities, and the high values that we uphold. All of these amazing experiences... with some of your best friends. It’s hard to put all of this into words for someone who has never experienced it, and frankly, this lack of understanding can be very frustrating.

The reality is that Greek life is not as prominent in Canadian campuses simply due to awareness. We are often unassociated with our universities, which results in fewer resources towards promoting the Greek community; student clubs end up attracting most of the student body. That’s the fatal flaw of Canadian Greek life, but as a result, we are all incredibly driven towards bridging this gap. You won’t find a group of students more passionate about their involvement that strives to succeed, than Canadian chapter members.

Getting excited when you see someone wear letters on campus
During my freshman year when I first joined Alpha Phi, I began to notice that there were at least a couple people in all my classes sporting various Greek letters and I was able to identify the related Greek organization. It was a subtle observation, but it was an observation that I was only able to make after joining Alpha Phi. These were fellow classmates that I previously would have disregarded as another stranger in a crowd of other peers. Suddenly, it became an instant connection with someone whom I would have never otherwise crossed paths with. Better yet, it was an exciting icebreaker that led to great conversations about not simply a shared interest, but a shared lifestyle. Even if they weren’t from the same house as me, it became an excellent and withstanding way to make new friends.

Hellen Pang is a collegiate member at Western University (Theta Eta). Learn more about Hellen by clicking here.

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