When I first started school, I was extremely homesick. I am the oldest of four, and I was used to the commotion of the lives of my family. Living in a dorm didn't make it any better. I know that many of you can relate to this feeling, and it is awful. I was a little fish in a huge pond and I wanted so badly to find my niche and to be a part of something. I have learned more in my year of being a member of this fraternity than I could have ever imagined. I have become more studious, womanly, responsible and mature. I did not want to have to become someone else to be a part of a chapter. Instead, I wanted to find a home that was going to change me.
I love who I am becoming, and who I am going to be. It is for this reason that I can honestly say becoming a member of Alpha Phi was the best decision I have ever made. This chapter has given me a support system that I never dreamed of having. Around November of 2014, my dad became ill. During this time the women in my chapter were there to rescue me when I felt like I was drowning in fear, stressed because of school and missing home. They kept me going when I thought I couldn't take it anymore.
In March of last year I was unexpectedly rushed home for a family meeting to find that my dad had been diagnosed with cancer, a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma. I was devastated. All I could think was why us? Why my family? My life became a blur. I remember coming back to school on a Sunday evening, only to be consoled by my big sis, Lexi. She, and all of my sisters, was again there to catch me. Everything was going to be okay as long as I had them by my side.
Over the summer, my dad expectedly spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. And on August 15 he passed away. Everything shattered into pieces around me. My sisters were there to my rescue, yet again, to pick up the pieces and help me glue them back together.
The outpouring of love and support from my sisters was overwhelming, and even that is an understatement. Sisters drove more than five hours to surprise me by attending my father’s services. I received countless texts, calls, messages and posts from each of my sisters, sending me courage; the courage I need to be where I am today. Being a part of something greater than myself has opened doors for me that I never imagined possible.
In September our chapter held a philanthropy event called “Sweet Tea with Alpha Phi” to give back to Lymphoma research in honor of my dad. Together, we raised over $500 to help those families affected by this cancer, and to get one step closer to finding a cure. While Lymphoma research is not our philanthropy, Lymphoma is something that hits home for me, my family and my sisters. I have been so privileged to be a member of the Delta Theta chapter. If I did not have this home to return to, I would not have had the strength to come back to school at all. During a time of grieving, I find myself laughing, smiling, loving life and being truly happy. Happy to be a part of this home. Happy to have 50 beautiful women I call my best friends. Happy to know that I will never ever be alone.
Alpha Phi has changed my life. I would like to leave you with a quote that I feel best embodies my experience as an Alpha Phi. It is a quote that we all can relate to in some kind of way, whether it is moving away from home, making new friends, or joining a chapter that will change your life. “If life can remove someone you never dreamed of losing, it can replace them with someone you never dreamt of having.”
Gianna Petan is a collegiate member at Western Michigan (Delta Theta). Learn more about Gianna by clicking here.