Why do we need sororities and fraternities?

‘It’s nice here but I am looking for some activities outside College now’. My peaceful marveling at spice-cake brick campus buildings surrounded by neatly arranged pastel flowerbeds is suddenly interrupted by this weary remark of my host who is showing me around Utrecht University College. ‘The community here is quite tight, there are many sororities and fraternities but they are really hard to get in”, she goes on to explain. Well, student societies at the University is a typical thing, you would say. But think about this: there is now a highly exclusive fraternity which accepts only Dutch blond guys. Yes, only blond. Only Dutch. And sororities are no better. At the canteen each has its own table where the ‘outsiders’ are not allowed to join. Sounds like Mean girls, doesn’t it?

Before, I would think that this is weird or freaky. Put even better, it seems freaking weird for people who are to be fully formed adults in a couple of years to act out this tragicomedy. But my own experience as a first year student made me less judgmental.

I packed my suitcases with a daring intention of reinventing myself in the College. At high school I had an image of obsessive perfectionist (who I am, guilty). But with a new group where no one knew me I hoped to get rid of limiting labels.

Inspired to experience a new surroundings, I walked into the hall swarming with other students who have just arrived. And then I felt like a stooge being led by a puppeteer of old stereotypes. The funny thing is: I wasn’t alone. At first glance from the very first meeting you could identify the ‘popular girls’, the ‘nerds’, the ‘sportsman’. Even though at EUC there are no societies like in UUC, the cliques are easily distinguishable.

And I don’t think there is a way of getting around this. These groups provide insecure adolescents with ready-made scripts that guarantee acceptance in the collective. But I also found during my journey that being yourself is way more fun, even if you have to explore and venture into struggles to get your answers and find friends who value you for who you are instead of looking at your hair colour.

Kate Sytnik is the editor-in-chief of the BUG, the student magazine of the Erasmus University College. As a fearless 18-year-old Russian, she ventured into the quest for herself and others as student of ‘Liberal Arts and Sciences’ at EUC.