Comfort in commonality: How international students find community in Greek life

first_imgLast year, Malhotra rushed for Delta Omicron Zeta, a professional leadership fraternity, in hopes of finding a diverse community where she could meet other international students and expand her professional network. However, after pledging, Malhotra found it hard to connect with other people and find the community she was looking for.  Rodriguez-Benito also got involved with Expat Society, a nationwide network for international students, during her freshman year and eventually became the director of recruitment and an adviser to the strategy team. Expat Society aims to build a community based on members’ international connections and experiences, according to the organization’s website. On college campuses, Expat Society’s group activities include art gallery visits, biking excursions and road trips, as well as parties.  Although Malhotra’s experience in Greek life fell flat after her first semester, some international students have been able to find a lifelong family through their organization, like Rodriguez-Benito. That sense of community and belonging is something Suero expects to hold on to for a long time. For international students, Greek life has the potential to provide a chosen family and support away from home. Students often struggle as they’re thrust into new routines in a new city, state or country and have to navigate their academic and social lives in an unfamiliar context. It can be particularly challenging for international students, who are not only arriving in a different country but are often met with cultural differences and new traditions. To find a sense of belonging, many international students look toward Greek life. Read more about how international students adjust to USC here. Most of my memories at USC — studying in thelibrary, going on trips, having social events andjust going through life and through big changes— have been with these girls … [You] meet aton of people that can then in the future beyour business partners, your best friends, yourbridesmaids or your child’s godmother.CARLOTA RODRIGUEZ-BENITO2019 USC alumni “[Greek life organizations] need to have more international students,” Malhotra said.  “Most of my memories at USC — studying in the library, going on trips, having social events and just going through life and through big changes in life — have been with these girls,” Rodriguez-Benito said. “[You] meet a ton of people that can then in the future be your business partners, your best friends, your bridesmaids, your child’s godmother.” Luciana Suero, a junior from Peru majoring in communication, transferred to USC from Santa Monica College in the spring semester of her sophomore year. She decided to join the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and the Delta Kappa Alpha film fraternity, which brings together students with various cinematic interests. As a transfer student, Suero said she felt behind in terms of finding friends. The relationships she formed in class often felt superficial because she didn’t spend time with those friends outside of class, so Suero turned to Greek life as an alternative method of feeling connected to people at school. “It was a very good getaway at times when I needed that connection with people that had an upbringing  more like mine,” Rodriguez-Benito said.  However, joining Greek life doesn’t provide all international students with the same kind of bonding and comfort that Rodriguez-Benito experienced. For Kasvi Malhotra, a sophomore from India majoring in communication, it was quite the opposite.  Malhotra also expressed disappointment in the lack of activities that she was able to participate in during her time in DOZ. When she joined, she expected having an opportunity to get involved in volunteer work or philanthropic events, but she said that wasn’t the case. After a while, she found herself feeling disconnected from the organization, an issue that eventually led to her leaving.  Despite its flaws, Greek life has guided many international students in discovering new sources of comfort and security. “I came here alone,” Suero said. “I don’t have my family members here in the States, so these girls, the sisters that I have now, are literally my family, and that’s something that I don’t think I could find as a student without joining ADPi or DKA.”  Malhotra said the organization lacked opportunities for international students to connect with each other organically rather than through the assigned task-based events, such as dancing in the middle of Ronald Tutor Campus Center or wearing shirts with funny quotes on them. She said the fraternity would benefit from creating direct opportunities for international students to freely connect with one another through a forum or space where they could get to know each other.  After participating in the various rituals that come with rushing and pledging, Rodriguez-Benito bonded with the other students she met and created memories that have lasted beyond her time at USC. “As an international student, I think it’s hard at first to grasp the tradition part of sororities,” Rodriguez-Benito said. “Anywhere you move, anywhere you are, you need to be open-minded about everything, and I think that is a good way to incorporate yourself in a different culture when you’re not from it.”  “A lot of Greek life is kind of centered around your first semester in Greek life, where people are super connected and you’re doing a lot of tasks, but after that … once you’re an active member, you’re not really doing anything,” Malhotra said. “There’s no way for you to actively participate, in my opinion.”  Design: Mia Islas | Daily Trojan Through Expat Society, Rodriguez-Benito has formed friendships with people from all over Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. As part of a community of students bound together by their international experiences, she felt comfortable and, once again, at home. When people think of Greek life, the first things that come to mind are often humiliating stories about hazing and pledging rituals, hard partying and superficiality. While some or all of these may be present in different organizations, students have said Greek life also provides college students, especially international students, an opportunity to feel at home and find community. While she felt a bit out of place navigating the Greek life culture at first, she eventually adapted and was able to find her people.  She met people from different backgrounds, cultures and majors, yet she fondly recalls how she and the friends she made had such similar values and lifestyles that made them feel like family. A quarter of USC’s student population is international, and yet this community is often underrepresented in the stories that are told at the University. In our special “A Long Way From Home” supplement issue, the Daily Trojan aims to spotlight the perspectives of international students who shape the culture of USC. Find all the stories here. “I remember some days just being sad and missing my family, and one of my [sorority sisters], came back home and brought me kombucha and cookies,” Suero said. “She sat down with me, listened to me and comforted me, and it felt like I was with my family. Every time I’m with them, it feels like I’m with my family.”  Although moving around made it quite difficult for her to find a single place to call home, Rodriguez-Benito said she felt included at USC through the friends she made in the Delta Gamma sorority. However, she explained that joining Greek life is a different adjustment process for international students given all the cultural differences. Carlota Rodriguez-Benito, a 2019 graduate, moved every two or three years throughout her childhood, growing up in North America, Europe and South America. After finishing high school in Mexico City, Rodriguez-Benito attended USC, where she graduated with bachelor’s degrees in Russian, French and international relations.  “You end up in a house where people have similar values, similar hobbies, similar perspectives on life to yours and that’s what I love about it,” she said. “I think the people here are my people, and we will be friends forever.”  In DKA, Suero was able to meet people who shared her passion for film while at ADPi, she had the opportunity to be involved in more social events and volunteer work, by fundraising for charities such as the Ronald McDonald House by selling pizza or clothes and holding soccer tournaments.last_img read more

Pat McKenzie steps in for 51-year head coach at D-III St. John’s

first_img Published on February 15, 2016 at 10:32 pm Contact Tomer: [email protected] | @tomer_langer Facebook Twitter Google+ Pat McKenzie’s family is ingrained in the history of St. John’s (Minnesota) University. The former point guard and current head coach played from 2000-04, his father, Pat, played at the school from 1975-79 and his younger brother, Kevin, played from 2010-14.The three of them played in completely different eras, but all ended up playing for the same head coach.Jim Smith became the head coach of the Johnnies in 1964. On March 17 of last year, Smith retired after spending 51 years on the job. He didn’t go into the season knowing that it would be his last.“All of a sudden the decision seemed right,” Smith said.Smith is the winningest coach in Minnesota college basketball history on any level. His 786 wins rank second all-time in Division III history and 14th in NCAA history among all divisions. He had the best winning percentage in school history among coaches who were around for at least 20 games.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSmith left his imprint on the university in more ways than one. He coached golf and cross country, among other sports, and even served two different stints as the athletic director. Now, McKenzie is tasked with replacing a man whose lasting legacy on the school spans over half a century.“I never once felt like he’s looking over my shoulder or I’m in his shadow,” McKenzie said. “If anything, I feel like he’s got his arm around my shoulder.”McKenzie, who was an assistant under Smith for the last nine years, said that there were nerves and anxious moments when he first took over. But as his young head coaching career has progressed, it’s become easier for him with the continued level of support from his former boss.Smith said that he would be there to help McKenzie whenever he needed it, but he stressed that he would try and remain as hands-off as possible.McKenzie was hired on April 15, just under a month after Smith’s retirement decision came. He felt cautiously optimistic that he would get the job after talking with people around the community.Still, he had to go through the full process of applying and interviewing with the committee that was formed to look for Smith’s replacement. One of the members on the committee was Mitchell Kuck, who was just finishing his junior year.The committee did its best to remain unbiased and to give a fair shot to every candidate, according to Kuck. But he also acknowledged that people in the community had a feeling that McKenzie was preparing to get the job for whenever his predecessor decided to retire.Kuck said that the players recognize that McKenzie is naturally more intense and serious than Smith was, though he credits that to Smith’s long tenure and McKenzie’s inexperience at the helm. But his favorite moment from this season broke the norm. After getting their first win of the season, McKenzie celebrated and shouted with the rest of his players in the locker room.“It was just a great memory for me, and it was something I’d never seen out of him before,” Kuck said.McKenzie conducts a few things differently now that Smith is gone. He focuses more on the players’ strength and conditioning and runs practice in a more structured manner.With the Johnnies entering a new phase in their programs history after 51 years of relative consistency, it’s up to McKenzie to find a way to continue the success. Commentslast_img read more