Monday, January 16, 2017

Eight Lessons I Learned as a Sorority Woman Living on the Road

by Jordan Seaman, Delta Pi (U of Central Missouri)

On July 17th the Educational Leadership Consultant team and I began a journey of a lifetime. For all who do not know, ELCs are women who work as liaisons between the collegiate chapters and AOII International Headquarters. I wanted to be an ELC since I was a sophomore in college, and I was so excited to travel across North America to represent an organization that I love so much. At my interview for the position, my boss and I spoke about personal growth and development throughout the time as an ELC. However, I never expected the amount of personal growth and lessons I would learn in such a short amount of time. In only four months, I traveled to 16 states, seven universities, and I met hundreds of sisters who impacted my life that helped me grow and learn some lessons along the way.

1. Know your necessities.
As many of my sisters, family and friends will tell you, I’m a clothes hoarder. I can spend hours on Pinterest researching the latest styles and trends. So when attempting to pack my entire life into two 50 pound suitcases and a carry-on, I panicked. Would I need that t-shirt I haven’t worn in months? Sure, I’ll bring it, just in case. Huge mistake. Like I said before, I love clothes, so what did I do when I traveled? Shopped of course. So, after a month on the road I quickly turned into that girl who pulled all my bags to the side to reshuffle my luggage so may bag would weigh less than 50 pounds. Finally, after being charged $100 at the Johnson City, Tennessee (Tri Cities) Airport at 6:30 a.m. for a bag that weighed 62 pounds, I said enough was enough. I landed in Louisiana and sent 2/3 of my luggage home. Lesson learned: If you don’t wear it, you don’t need it. Plus, it gives you more room in your luggage to shop.

2.  Find a routine, and stick with it.
Throughout my life, I’ve always been surrounded by people. I went from growing up as the oldest of five, to a college dorm, Panhellenic Housing, and then living with four roommates. Because of this, I’ve never been on my own for an extended period of time. When I hit the road, it was safe to say I was somewhat terrified, traveling for four months alone. However, I knew that it would be a great time to learn more about myself. It only took until my first visit at Sigma Omicron at Arkansas State University to realize that being alone gives forces you go into a routine. I’m not talking about get up, go to work, eat, and go back to sleep routine, I’m talking about a routine that makes you happy. For me, it’s waking up and listening to music drinking a cup of coffee (or three). I love to run, so I run at least two miles a day. I love to explore, so throughout my travels I will always go find food or explore the area. I love to laugh, so I check my favorite IG accounts, watch some Snapchat stories, and maybe an episode of How I Met Your Mother or The Office every now and again. I always had a fear of routines, but I never realized that a routine could also lead to adventure. Lesson learned: Find yourself, find what makes you happy, form it into your daily routine, and live a life of happiness.

3. You can network anywhere, but especially at the airport.
To be completely honest, before this job, I was absolutely terrified of flying. I quickly got over that fear, because I took 13 flights in only three months. Throughout my time in a variety of different airports, I learned that they all have one thing in common: opportunity. Opportunity in the sense that everyone in at the airport has the same mission as you: to get where they’re going. However, if you take the time to meet the person next to you, you can meet some amazing people. Being an outgoing person, I usually said hello and introduced myself to people in the Starbucks line, terminal boarding, or even grabbing a bite to eat. From simply generating small talk, I met some outstanding people, had extremely interesting conversations, and even received three job offers. I also met Lee Brice, but that’s beside the point, (but also really cool.) I’m not saying you need to do this anywhere and with anyone, because trust me, the 6 a.m. flights are rough. However, sometimes taking out the headphones and putting away the cell phone can go a long way, and I would suggest that to anyone. Make every opportunity a networking opportunity. 

4.     Always remember where you came from.
There seems to be a common misconception that moving away from your loved ones means you can’t stay as close as you once were. When I moved away, I was terrified that this would become reality. In my college years at the University of Central Missouri, I gained some of the best sisters, roommates and friends I could ever ask for. They’re entirely the reason that I applied for this position in the first place, and I was determined to keep these relationships strong. I reached out to one person a day through text, phone call, snail mail (yes, lots of post cards), Snapchat, and whatever else to ensure those relationships would last. When I returned for UCM’s Homecoming, I was overwhelmed with the amount of love I received from my sisters and friends from the Community. They’re so supportive of everything I’m doing and continue to push me to be the best I can be. Lesson learned: It only takes 30 seconds a day reach out and stay in contact. If you care about someone, make it known and always thank those who help you create your success.

5. Positivity is everything.
Before this job, I underestimated the power of a positive attitude. The sisters I met definitely put positivity into a new perspective for me. If there is one thing that all Alpha Omicron Pi sisters have in common, it’s perseverance, but especially perseverance with a positive attitude. Throughout my travels, I met some of the most inspiring sisters with the most incredible stories. Lambda Tau at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) will forever stand out in my mind. They came together to help a sister who was in a terrible car wreck by raising funds within the community, visited her hospital bed every day, and continue to support her with their love, positivity, and sisterhood. When I met her, she was the most positive person I have ever met, and had the best attitude towards everything that happened. This woman and Lambda Tau changed my perspective on life and positive thinking. From that moment, I vowed to always look at the glass half full, and have taken that positivity and worked it into my everyday life.

6.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m stubborn. I’m so stubborn that I walked a half mile to and from class every day because I didn’t want to burden anyone to ask for a ride. I hate asking for help because I don’t want to bother others, and I have the “I can just do it” attitude.  Because of this, I wasn’t the best at asking for what I wanted; however, with this job it quickly changed. For four months, I relied on my sisters for my food, transportation and experiences. Even though the guilt and independence was in full swing, I learned I had to start asking for what I wanted. I started to break down the stubborn wall when I arrived at Alpha Theta at Coe College in Iowa. I finally began to ask to on the adventures that I wanted, and in only one week I went to a Cedar Rapids live production, The Kernels minor league baseball game, Coe College football game, and had the best cup of coffee of my life at Brewed Awakenings. I made some fantastic memories, and bonded with sisters along the way. I began to slowly stop being so stubborn, and ask for what I needed. In my work and everyday life, I began to ask, and I began to be a lot happier and getting the things and experiences I wanted. Lesson learned: Whether it’s a place to eat or seeing a part of the country that you want to see, just ask. If you don’t advocate for yourself, you’ll never get what you want.

7.  Patience.
So simple but so true. Before this job, my patience was extremely low. However, this quickly changed. From the small things like flight delays in the Atlanta Airport to tabling on campus for weeks, every situation helped me grow and realize the wonderful lesson: patience is a virtue.

8. You never know who you can inspire, just by being yourself.
I’m constantly asked why I wanted to be an ELC, and my answer is always the same. I want to help and inspire others. However, I really under estimated the amount of sisters I would meet that would inspire me as well. I met a group of amazing sisters I call my ELC team. Not only did we make 14 people fit into a house with seven beds and three showers, but we made it through spider attacks, fire alarms, lock outs, and the AC turning off and breaking in the middle of the Nashville summer. We can take on the world.

I met the wonderful Grace Houston: a sister who serves on the Executive Board who inspired me to push myself to the best of my abilities. We spent the day in Monroe, Louisiana, and she also served as the Colonizing Officer for Phi Alpha at East Tennessee State University. She inspired me and so many other sisters, and I can only imagine to be like her one day.

I met so many sisters from across the country that made me realize why I wanted to be an ELC in the first place. Sometimes, it’s the little things like dancing and singing Broccoli with Sigma Omicron while preparing to recruitment. Their fun and larger-than-life attitudes made my first visit so enjoyable, and with their hard work and determination, they had the highest recruitment return rates they’ve had in years. The women of Phi Alpha inspired me by being them. They managed to grow and build the foundation for their chapter in only six weeks. Their love for AOII and each other is unbreakable, and I know they’re going to be an outstanding chapter. You never know who you’re positively impacting, so just be you, and the rest will follow.

In just four short months, I’ve grown so much as a person, and my love for Alpha Omicron Pi has tremendously grown. I can’t thank everyone on my ELC team, and everyone I’ve met across the country enough for this fantastic experience. One semester down, one more to go, and many more lessons to learn.

Friday, November 11, 2016

How Life Fell Right Into Place

Meghan Brown
Epsilon Omega (Eastern Kentucky U)

If you know anything about me, you know I am one of the biggest homebodies you will ever meet. How did I decide to apply for a job that is the complete opposite of the homebody experience you might ask? Trust me, I ask myself everyday how I jumped into a position that throws you into the unknown and completely out of your comfort zone. But, wow, I am glad that I did!

To start, being an Educational Leadership Consultant for Alpha Omicron Pi was not something I have always wanted to do. While the experience may be once in a lifetime, I simply did not think it was one for me. I was the girl who wanted to “settle down,” get married and live a happy life with a husband and a pup.

Toward the end of my fall semester of my senior year, my grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. It did not take myself or my family long to rush to his comfort and to the loving arms of my grandmother. I vividly remember when my grandfather told me, “I am not scared to die. I have had a good life, and I have done everything I could have ever wanted.”

His statement threw me into tears and sadness for a few days. However, it was not until I really took time to self-reflect that I realized how significant his remarks were. In the uncertainty of my senior year, I was beginning my job hunt. I wanted to find a job relatively close to home where I could have a stable and comfortable life. However, hearing my grandfather discuss doing everything he wanted in his life offered me an “aha!” moment. Did I really want to jump into what now seemed to me as a life of incredible boredom just because it was convenient and stable? I have never been one to take on “out of your comfort zone” experiences, but I had to ask myself if that ultimately was the way I wanted to live my life. As morbid as it may sound, I pictured the end of my life, and I asked myself “Is this life one I could really be proud of? Did I accomplish everything I wanted?”

After continuous self-reflection, I was reminded of the solid ground I had my past three and a half years of college. It had always been Alpha Omicron Pi. While I had been encouraged to apply for the Educational Leadership Consultant position in the past, I always thought it was out of my comfort zone, but I decided to step out on a limb and pursue it.

I applied and had an interview where I met 19 absolutely incredible AOII women. A few short weeks after interviews, I received a phone call that I was chosen to be a part of the Educational Leadership Consultant team that year.  

While I was absolutely ecstatic to accept the position, I was certainly overwhelmed and anxious. I questioned if I was good enough, capable enough or strong enough to fulfill the dynamic aspects of this position. However, my grandfather remained in the back of my mind. I needed to do something I did not think I could do. I needed to explore this country. Most importantly, I needed to find myself.

Fast forward eight months and you can now find me in College Station, Texas. I am one of the Resident Consultants on the Texas A&M campus where I work with our new Alpha Omicron Pi chapter. This job has changed my life, and I have learned that I am a woman who truly can accomplish and do anything, even if it is miles away from home. I finally feel valued and feel like I am making a difference. The colony members of this Texas A&M community challenge me to be the best version of myself every day. I have another Resident Consultant partner who is incredible, and she reminds me to value myself all the time. I am so grateful.

Alpha Omicron Pi has always been my solid ground. I am so lucky to say that it continues to be my solid ground. I have never been the biggest believer in “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that people are placed in your life when you need them the most. My grandfather’s medical struggle has challenged me to be proud of the life that I live. My now co-workers at AOII, the Texas A&M community and all of AOII sisters stepped into my life when I needed them the most. They have encouraged me to live a life out of my comfort zone. To all the other AOIIs who are similar to me and question the uncertainties of life, I hope you can ask yourself the same questions I asked myself. I am so grateful I did.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

From Cornfields to Palm Trees

From Cornfields to Palm Trees
Ashley Lahue
Kappa Kappa (Ball State U)

I thought leaving my friends in Indiana and family in St. Louis was hard, but parting ways with the 14 women that I grew to love in Nashville was even more challenging. We had bonded to the point of referring to ourselves as our own little chapter, Epsilon Lambda Chi—ELC. The only thing that made me feel prepared to trek out to the West Coast was knowing that I was taking a little piece from each member of my team.

From Maddie Archer-Burton: vulnerability. Andi Tomko-Williams taught me ambition. Miko Guzzardo displayed independence. From Jenni Law: apathy. Ali McLaughlin showed me creativity. From Mary Kate Berger: kindness. Erin Mullaney was trustworthy. Meghan Brown taught me determination. From Jordan Seaman: enthusiasm. Alicia Gauker demonstrated patience. Lauren Smith showed me motivation. Ankita Naik was full of joy. Tanasia Jackson embodied true sisterhood.

After an 11-hour travel day that consisted of missing my first-ever flight and navigating the most overwhelming airport in the world (shout out to Dallas Fort Worth), I finally arrived at California State University Long Beach. I was welcomed by palm trees and Pacific Ocean air, and comforted by Lambda Beta Chapter’s unconditional love.

Throughout this journey thus far, I have hiked the Rocky Mountains, danced on the Santa Monica pier, welcomed new members on bid day, sang under Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and stargazed at 6,700 feet.

But the most exciting experience of all has been realizing, first hand, the common bond that every AOII shares. Whether you are on the West Coast or in the Midwest, sisterhood is sisterhood, and we all need somebody to lean on.

Sometimes I glance at the “Find Friends” map and my heart sinks to find that my closest ELC teammate is still 1,650 miles away. But that feeling quickly fades when the newly-met sister to my left invites me on a McDonalds run for my third Diet Coke of the day.

I wanted to be an ELC to lift others up, but the women I have met have encouraged me and uplifted me beyond what I could have ever imagined.