January 26, 2015

On the Road: Frequently Asked Questions

During every visit the same questions always seem to come up.

“Where else have you been?” (Almost too many places to count!)
“Which chapter was your favorite?” (I definitely can’t pick one!)
“What do you actually do?” (That’s for another post.)

But my favorite question is, “Wait, we have chapters in Canada?”
Yes! We do! That is why we’re called Alpha Phi International Fraternity. We are one of only 13 NPC groups represented in Canada, and have 7 chapters!

Before October I had never been to Canada and knew very little about our neighboring country. I knew I needed a passport to get there, and that their winters were way colder than what I was used to in Arizona. But during my journey I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time working with our most recently installed chapter at the University of Ottawa – Iota Upsilon. Conveniently enough Ottawa is the capital of Canada so I was immediately immersed in all things Canadian. I have now tried poutine, become a fan of hockey, and can’t get enough beavertails. While I am still not good at dealing with all the snow, the women in the chapter rarely make fun of me and always help me when I slip!

Once I start talking about my experience in Canada, everyone wants to know what’s different about these chapters. While there are a few differences being up north, it’s not very different from visiting any of our other chapters. The women are still wonderful and welcoming, sisterhood is still a priority, and all members have a strong bond to Alpha Phi.

I feel so lucky to have met so many amazing sisters across North America during this experience. I will never forget my time spent up north and I hope that the next time an ELC mentions her visit to one of our Canadian chapters it comes as no surprise to anyone. Not every NPC group can claim that they are International, so we should be proud of this title!

Erin Hannam (Gamma Pi–Arizona State)is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Erin by clicking here.

January 23, 2015

Featured Product Friday: Alpha Phi Stack Rings by A-List Greek Designs

These cute rings feature the Alpha Phi letters in shining gold, silver, or rose gold plating. The ring band is adjustable so that you can wear these stacked on one finger or singly with one on each finger. They are a simple way to show off the letters we love!

Price is $29.95. Click here for details.

January 21, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: The Big Break

Six months ago, I had to say goodbye to two of my closest friends and role models in my sorority. We savored our last day together by venturing to our favorite doughnut shop where I got a maple bacon bar – my ultimate weakness. The bittersweet separation was lightened by the knowledge that they were about to embark on a worldly journey: studying abroad. At my university, it is the norm for juniors to go abroad for the fall quarter. This means that when class gets out for summer it is customary to bid adieu to some of our closest sisters until their return home at the beginning of January.

My chapter isn't the only one challenged with time apart from friends; every school has long breaks where smoothies and sisterhoods make way for family functions and the holiday season. Here are some of my favorite tips for staying in touch over an extended break:

  1. Communicate in unexpected ways. Whether this means a handwritten note, a video of you singing your favorite song to dance together to, or a package filled with small mementos, try something other than a routine text or phone call. You’ll have something to pin to your wall when you get back to school.
  2. Start a countdown. Nothing is capable of instilling the giddy excitement for a best friend reunion like the number of days, hours, and minutes until your break is over, regardless of how dauntingly large that number may seem.
  3. Share new ideas for activities to do once you’re back at school. My suggestion: Pinterest. My roomies and I pinned mouthwatering recipes like this slow cooker broccoli cheese soup back and forth so we would have plenty to do when we got back.
  4. Relax and restore. Being in a sorority can often times mean being surrounded by your best friends – all the time. Being at home or away for break can be a unique opportunity to recharge and get some me-time that you may be hard pressed to find at school. Live it up!

Regardless of how long your best friend may be going abroad for or despite that last week at the end of winter break that just seems to drag by slower than the rest, the day will eventually come when you reunite with your sisters. And even though it can be hard to be apart, each chapter can benefit from its members seeking experiences individually to enrich the diversity of the entire group.

Stella Swartz is a collegiate member at Denver (Iota Xi). Learn more about Stella by clicking here.

January 19, 2015

On the Road: The Mission

Travel; verb-by definition “to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane or ship; take a trip; journey.”

The Educational Leadership Consultant experience is not limited to one journey, but many. Like every journey, it all starts with a mission.

Mission 1: Packing
Packing for all four seasons in two suitcases is no easy feat. Being a clothes horse, I thought I would never be able to pack for months at a time in only two suitcases. With a little practice, I have learned to pack like a pro. Dresses, tees, jeans, heels… no problem! Despite the 50 lb. rule, the ELC team can pack the necessities, plus some, with weight to spare. Though I do owe some credit to packing cubes, I can say with confidence that I can pack for any climate, in two bags, in under 30 minutes. The ELC journey has given me one of the greatest gifts; the art of packing.

Mission 2: Navigating through the Airport
With my two suitcases and personal carry-on item in hand, the walk to the check-in kiosk is where the fate of your travel day will be determined. As an ELC, I have gained the knowledge and skills needed to earn good graces at the airport. Treating gate attendants, flight staff and airline representatives with kindness and respect will get you far. Though traveling can be stressful, and sometimes I think I am having a crazy day, chances are, they are having a crazier one. A simple, “Hi, how are you!?” may end up in the waiving of that hefty baggage fee.

Whether at LAX, Regan National or O’Hare, I can successfully make it through check-in and security, arriving at my gate promptly, with time to spare. The travel world is as stressful and chaotic as you make it. The ELC experience has instilled the life-long skill of being a veteran traveler, a tool that will never cease to deliver.

Mission 3: Takeoff 
“Flight attendants, prepare for take-off”, has become ingrained in my brain as the mental kick-start to a new journey. Each Alpha Phi chapter I visit allows me to enter into an unfamiliar environment and meet and create a relationship with numerous members, all the while empowering and inspiring women to be strong leaders through all that Alpha Phi has to offer.

Meeting new people, while traveling, has proved to be one of the most memorable parts of this job. Collegian, volunteer or stranger, each acquaintance has prepared me for my next journey. I have learned to be fearless; starting a basic conversation with a stranger has shown me more about myself then I could have ever imagined. If it wasn’t for the collegian who did what was right instead of what was popular, the couple retiring in Flagstaff, the soon to be father-in-law flying to Cancun for his daughter’s wedding, a coach of a respected collegiate basketball program, and the gate attendant who waived my baggage fee in turn for me to “pay it forward,” I would have never known that I have the ability to surprise myself. I have grown as a leader and person, and learned that stepping outside of my comfort zone has empowered me to be the best that I can be.

Mission 4: Landing
As each plane lands, it represents both the beginning and ending of each journey I set out on. I know as I board each plane, one thing will always remain constant: my ELC family. It is very rare that one meets a group of people that instantly click and “get” each other. Once my ELC journey has come to an end, my team will continue to support one another throughout our future endeavors. But until then…pack, fly, repeat and the journey continues!

Mia Sinatro (Iota Lambda-Connecticut) is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Mia by clicking here.

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.

If you would like to apply to become a Collegiate Perspective blogger for the Spring 2015 semester, click here.

January 12, 2015

On the Road: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

When I headed home for the holidays this year, I was so excited! I couldn't wait to snuggle with my dog and eat home cooked meals. I wouldn't have to live out of my suitcase or think about airport delays for three weeks! I had an entire room to myself, and while many people gorged on holiday delicacies, I finally got my Christmas wish: time to exercise! However, as Christmas drew closer, I felt like something was missing.

We all want to spend the holidays with people we love; however, I now had people I loved from coast to coast. Even though I had just seen my fellow ELCs in Chicago, I missed their constant presence and laughter at the Executive Office. I missed the wonderful EO Staff and their daily inspiration when we are both in and out of the office. I missed all the members and officers who made me feel at home no matter what chapter I was visiting. I missed the amazing volunteers who shared my lifetime passion for the fraternity, and motivated me with their dedication and hard work. My heart was full because I had been surrounded by amazing Alpha Phis almost every day for the past five months – and now, I was having withdrawals. The good thing is – a sister is always only a text, phone call, Snapchat, or greeting card (my personal favorite) away.

As I head back on the road for the next three months (where has the year gone?!), I am ecstatic to continue to work with and meet new Alpha Phis. While we cannot be with loved ones all the time, I am lucky to have such a growing network of women that inspire and support me. I encourage everyone to reach out to those that may be far away, and remind them how much you care about them. Alpha Phi is the gift that keeps on giving, years after you open your bid card.

Tasha Fitts (Iota Xi-Denver) is a first year educational leadership consultant. Learn more about Tasha by clicking here.

January 9, 2015

Featured Product Friday: Sassy Sorority Weekender Bag

Whether traveling with your sisters or visiting home for the weekend, travel in style with this classic weekender bag! It's made of sturdy cotton canvas with leather accents and handle.

January 7, 2015

Spring 2015 Collegiate Perspective Blogger Application

Are you....  
An avid writer?
Social media savvy?
Passionate about Alpha Phi? 

Then consider applying to be a guest writer for the Collegiate Perspective section of the Alpha Phi International blog.

Our blog features topics ranging from alumnae perspective articles to crafting to general women's awareness pieces. And we'd love to throw your viewpoint into the mix! Document a semester in the life: snap photos, tell about events happening within your chapter or write about topics concerning women. The possibilities are endless, and we want to hear your ideas!

In order to be eligible, you must:
  • Be a collegiate member
  • Be able to write blog updates two to three times a month
  • Be available to write through the end of this semester (Spring 2015)
Interested? Fill out the Alpha Phi Guest Blogger Application below. Please be thoughtful and thorough with your responses. You can view past collegiate perspective pieces by clicking here. We'll be in touch following the deadline regarding the status of your application.

Contact lphillips@alphaphi.org with any questions!

The application deadline is Sunday, January 18, by 11:59 PM CST.

January 2, 2015

Collegiate Perspective: To Study Abroad, or Not To Study Abroad?

The first semester of this school year has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and the much-needed holiday is here. Relaxing with family and friends, taking trips, and the holiday spirit make the time away from college fly by. If you’re like me though, you still can’t wait to get back to school and see your whole chapter. Alpha Phi becomes such a prominent part of my schedule during the school year that there seems to be a void without weekly chapter meetings or running into a sister around every corner. This made me think, “How do people in a sorority choose to study abroad and forego an entire semester with their best friends?” The decision of whether or not to go abroad is becoming more and more of a dilemma for me as my time at the University of Virginia dwindles. Before college, I had always wanted to see more of the world and experience learning in an entirely new environment, but I never factored in the things I would miss while overseas.

This concept of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) has become a part of life for many of my peers and me (and maybe some of you as well), and seems to factor into nearly every decision. While I think this is a big problem with college culture as a whole, it is even more troublesome when it gets in the way of education or valuable experiences. Unique experiences are what make people individuals, and building a community within Alpha Phi is greatly enhanced by women who have encountered other cultures and life lessons that they can share with their sisters.

One of the great things about Alpha Phi is that you always have a home to come back to; I was worried that if I study abroad, my new member class would forget about me or that I wouldn't be as involved upon returning. My chapter has certainly taught me otherwise. In the past year alone, the women who have voyaged abroad have been sorely missed upon departure and embraced upon return. After talking with some women in my chapter, I've become convinced that including study abroad in my college career would not mean giving up sisterhood for a semester, but rather enhancing my sisterhood with experiences to share. That is not to say though that I wouldn't miss it terribly. Some of the Phis abroad this semester commented on their experiences and were reminded of how special of a home we have in Alpha Phi.

Third year Sharon Wolbarsht who studied in Birmingham said, “There’s nothing like walking into a house and being greeted by a table full of laughing girls. While that may sound cliché, it’s common in our house. Alpha Phi has always felt homey and I miss being surrounded by such a diverse, fun, driven, intelligent and kind group of women and can’t wait to reunite!” Another third year, Mel Destefano, said, “Coming to a new place (Florence!) and not knowing anyone reminded me of when I first came to UVA. I quickly found my home in Alpha Phi, and although I've made some amazing friends abroad, I can’t wait to come home to all of my sisters.”

It will surely be difficult to leave such a great community for an entire semester, but just being reminded of the incredible family and sisterhood I have to come back to, and knowing that I will be included while away (for example, Mel ran for our Executive Council all the way from Italy) makes me confident that fulfilling other aspirations is made more rewarding and supported by having Alpha Phi. I don’t know if it’s possible to love my chapter more than I already do, but they say, “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Judging from what my sisters abroad have said, it seems to be true for our chapter.

Lauren Yevak is a collegiate member at Virginia (Zeta Iota). Learn more about Lauren by clicking here.