By Gus Stern
The University of the South prides itself on being a close-knit community where everyone is welcome. The domain is a place where lifelong friends are made and, oftentimes, these friend groups have an assortment of socioeconomic, cultural, geographical, and political backgrounds. However, because these groups become so close, they can often seem to have an air of exclusivity. This can make socializing hard, especially for new students, who feel that they either cannot find a group that fits them or that they aren’t welcome to join certain groups. As Cason Liles (C ’18), a transfer student, put it, “When I came to Sewanee, I knew one senior. I wasn’t a freshman, and to the returning sophomores, I wasn’t a sophomore. I was overwhelmed and had absolutely no idea how to meet people or even if I would fit in.” This is a feeling that many have shared and that, over time, can make a student feel as if the school is not the place for them.
When it comes to finding friends at Sewanee, the prominent Greek system garners both praise and criticism from the school’s community. Some believe that joining a Greek organization allows students to find a group of friends with similar interests and can be a great foundation to meet new people. Others believe that the Greek system divides the school into impenetrable groups and leads to judgments on who someone is despite their personal characteristics. To some students that chose not to join a fraternity or sorority, it can be hard to push past the inherent aspects of exclusivity within the greek system or even to just feel welcome within the nightlife at Sewanee that tends to occur at Greek houses.
One student, who would like to remain anonymous, stated, “It took me a long time to find a close friend here. I am not someone that likes to go out, I am not an especially talkative person, and to be honest, I don’t dress like the ‘stereotypical’ Sewanee student.” This brings to light the opinion that the social climate of Sewanee can often seem quite homogeneous. To students that feel they do not align with this social structure, it can be hard to even know where to begin looking for new friendships. This can be a very difficult experience to have; however, it can also be the catalyst for a positive series of experiences. The anonymous student continued, “My sophomore year, I decided that if my friends were not going to find me, I was going to find them. I started to get involved in the community by joining different clubs and starting conversations with classmates in classes that interested me. Within a few weeks, I was finally starting to feel at home, and within a month I knew that I had friends that I would have for a long time.” It is important to note that this person made it clear that they reached out to my request for different perspectives on this article because they wanted people in similar situations to know that they are not alone and that, with some persistence, things can change.
Ultimately, it can sometimes be hard to find friends at Sewanee, but the school is an amalgamation of people where the friends can be found. If Greek Life isn’t for you, that doesn’t mean you can’t have friends in fraternities. If you’re in a sorority, that doesn’t mean that you only enjoy getting margarita pitchers at Mi Casa. There are so many experiences to take advantage of on the Domain, and if you keep trying new things you’re bound to find someone you like. In the words of Logan Atkinson (C’ 19), “I was timid at first, but as I got more comfortable the friends couldn’t stop being made.”