This is the time of year when hundreds of girls in their best outfits swarm the city blocks, shivering in their zipped–up coats. They are going through the grueling rush process before joining one of the eight Panhellenic sororities at Penn. This week can be daunting to say the least, and that’s why Rho Gammas, who serve as recruitment guides to Potential New Members, play such an important role.
Serena Vargulik (C ‘19), a senior majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics, is a Rho Gamma for this year’s recruitment. A former co–chair of Penn Wellness, Serena decided to be a Rho Gamma because she wanted to support the PNMs during their rush process.
“I know being a PNM in the rushing process can be challenging. Coming from the wellness background, I really want to be there for the PNMs as someone they can just talk to and help to make the process as smooth as possible,” Serena says.
Serena explains that it's highly emphasized that Rho Gammas be there for the girls and to be supportive of all sorority chapters.
Serena entered the rush process in her freshman spring and became a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. At first, Serena didn't know whether rush was right for her, but she became more invested in the process as she progressed throughout the week.
“Later I realized, it’s so important to not let this process shape how you view yourself,” Serena says.
Serena says that, frankly, rush is not perfect. She believes there’s a sweet spot that needs to be found between efficiency and giving enough time to foster genuine conversations. She also says that in order for rush to be successful for anyone, you have to decide whether you want to be a part of something.
“Being more of an introvert myself, I definitely found it challenging to have so many conversations in one day with people that I don’t know,” Serena adds.
Having conversations with girls you barely know for hours on end can be exhausting for many PNMs, Serena says. The PNMs can sometimes be tired of talking about the same thing over and over again.
“When you’re put in a situation to talk with others, it’s hard to build from small talk to deep conversation," Serena says. “I’m not so sure about how to do it; but one thing I like to do when I’m in the house is that I would look up cool questions to ask people.”
As a former co–chair of Penn Wellness, Serena hopes to raise awareness for various mental health initiatives at Penn. In her freshman year, she became part of the Penn Benjamins, an organization that provides short–term and confidential peer counseling to the Penn undergraduate community.
Serena found her work at Penn Wellness to be very connected to her role as a Rho Gamma.
“I like being there for people. Especially with rushing, you’re putting yourself out there. If it’s not working out as how you envisioned, it’s really tough,” Serena says. “Everyone here is amazing and I want them to have the best experience at Penn, to feel comfortable with who they are as a person, and to know that they are extremely valued.”
Serena does not believe that there's a generic word to describe the process of sorority rush—it often conjures up a slew of mixed feelings. Within a brief window of time, girls have to fully commit themselves to the process even though it's very possible that they could be rejected by their preferred chapters.
“Everyone has such as an individual experience through this whole process,” Serena says. “I really dislike how things can be so selective. But also realizing that having smaller communities wouldn’t be possible if they were to be completely open.”
When asked for a words of advice for the PNMs, Serena thought for a second, and with a smile says, “I would say, stay true to yourself.”