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Grand Finale

Well, this is my final post, in my final semester.  Instead of finishing off everything with a miniature profile on a student from UA involved in Greek Life, I’m dedicating this post as a wrap up for the past semester of classes, the last dance.

Going into this final semester, I had only one real journalism class I was enrolled in, Border Beat.  Prior to the beginning of the semester, I had already made up my mind that most likely I would not end up with a journalism career.  Over the course of the last three and a half years, my interests had changed, a common enough occurrence for many college students.  I entered the university after years of journalism experience through junior high and high school, it only made sense to continue working towards a career in the field.  But after a glimpse of what a journalistic career would entail, which was shockingly different than my high school courses, I turned my interests elsewhere.

Regardless, I still had a sense of anticipation for the upcoming semester in Border Beat, which was filled with many students I spent the last four years of class with, and a professor who taught a previous class I enjoyed- things did not seem too terrible for my final semester.  Before the first class, I was approached about possibly holding the position of Editor in Chief of the publication. Though I ultimately did not land the position, I’m confident the right decision was made, and I would not have been able to put in an adequate amount of effort to fulfill the position.

From the start the class was kicked into high gear, and we were expected to publish a blog post ever week (my other blog posts for the semester can be viewed in the sidebar to the right) and a story every week.  With the barrage of work from my other classes, I felt I would never be able to finish a story ever week- somehow I managed to nearly every week.  Despite the stress I had when deadlines would come nearer, the demand for weekly stories taught me something about journalism I had yet to learn in the past few years- the amount of time devoted to a story is not extremely demanding as long as I have some sort of plan.  In all of my other classes, from junior high up until my final semester of college, I had at least two weeks to work on a story.  The only thing I mastered as a result of these long deadlines was simple- procrastination.

Being a journalist taught me how to procrastinate, and for the most part, procrastinate successfully.  For the past eight or nine years, I would put my stories in the back of my mind, and not put an emphasis on a story until it was a day or two before my deadline.  This strategy worked in the past, but became much more difficult during this semester, or at least added a level of stress I was not accustomed to.  With the onslaught of work from other classes I often found myself a day before deadline without any idea of what to cover for my weekly story.  The mission of the publication is to concentrate on issues involving the border that lies extremely close to the Tucson campus, and other international issues present in Tucson.  Therefore, my job of searching for ideas was more difficult- add a little more stress.  I would end up finding a last minute story, and working on it up until my deadline.  Even after I finished, I was never extremely satisfied or proud of my work.

This vicious cycle continued for a majority of the semester until I finally looked at what I was doing, and realized how simple it was to get information and produce a story, a process I was only making exponentially difficult on myself.  This all happened about three weeks ago.  From this point on, the semester was a breeze.  I began searching for story ideas earlier, being more observant of places around me, always looking for stories to cover.  Immediately I began finding subject ideas, and found people often were happy to speak with reporters who were trying to make their lives or businesses more available to the public.

Two weeks ago, I traveled with a few of the other members of my class to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church down in Nogales, a yearly occurrence for Border Beat.  For one day a month, the church transforms into a medical clinic for children living in Mexico, who are unable to afford adequate medical assistance in their home country.  In the weeks leading up to our trip, we prepared for what we would cover, and my anticipation grew with each meeting we had.  Despite all of our preparation, nothing could truly have prepared us for what we found on that Thursday.

It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.  The children were bussed in with their families, and were greeted by a slew of volunteers.  Not long after I arrived, I learned finding volunteers at St. Andrew’s is not a difficult task, but instead they often have to deny volunteers.  A large number of medical professionals drive down to the border town to use their expertise in the many fields, from vision and auditory, to orthopedics and pediatrics.  Many other volunteers have spent the past few years working at the clinic in areas from parking and a welcome desk, to cooking food for all those working at the clinic.

I’m now in my final week of work for Border Beat, my final of journalism work I will complete in my life, and still it feels like any other week.  Hopefully you enjoyed the blog post, and all of the work on Border Beat.

To look through my other blog posts, they are all listed at the right.  All of the stories I have published on Border Beat are also listed below.  Thanks for reading.

“A Good Feeling” says 10-year St. Andrew’s Doctor 

A Semester to Remember 

All-Star Game in danger of being moved from  Phoenix

An escape to Tucson 

Babylon Market offers new flavor to Tucson 

Doctor travels from Sweden to volunteer at St. Andrew’s

Hacienda del Sol: A Slice of Tucson 

Individuals volunteer time and time again at St. Andrew’s 

Live Blog: Immigration Week community panel #1 

Many believe All-Star Game will remain in Phoenix 

Panelists call for immediate action

Taco Shop attracts late night students

The business side of St. Andrew’s: Fundraising

The experiences of an International student

Where to volunteer in Tucson

My apologies, this week I do not have a student to profile for this week.  My work over the past week has been centered around stories covering the St. Andrew’s Medical Clinic.  Many stories will appear later this week on Borderbeat.  Regardless, I didn’t want to leave the page blank for this week, so I thought I’d go deeper into the multicultural fraternities and sororities on the UA campus.  There are 47 fraternities and sororities on campus: 17 fraternities governed by the Intrafraternity Council (IFC), 14 sororities governed by the Panhellenic Council (PHC), 11 fraternities and sororities governed by the United Sorority and Fraternity Council (USFC), and 5 fraternities and sororities governed by the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC).  For the sake of this post, I will be concentrating mainly on the fraternities and sororities within USFC and NPHC.

Members of the NPHC Council (Photo taken from NPHC website)

NPHC is the governing body that oversees the 5 fraternities and sororities that historically consist of African American Members.  The governing body consists of President Tiffany LaMarr, Vice-President Eric Mitchell, Treasurer Shakayla Byrd, Secretary Tamika Fuller, Historian Paul Hunter, Health Advocate Eftikhar Akam, and GAMMA (Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol) Representative Nita Ocansey.

The five recognized fraternities and sororities on UA’s campus are:

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.  There are two other organizations on campus that have yet to gain official recognition from the university- Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. 

For more information on NPHC, please visit their website.

USFC is the governing body for the 11 other multicultural fraternities and sororities on campus.  The council members for USFC are President Miguel Acero of Lambda Theta Phi, Vice President Skye Fernandez of Theta Nu Xi, Finance Director Joe Nguyen of Pi Alpha Phi, Programming Director Jeannette Moreno of Lambda Theta Alpha and Recruitment Director Sandra Banuett of Lambda Theta Alpha.  The houses that are part of USFC are Alpha Phi Gamma Sorority, Inc., Chi Upsilon Sigma, Delta Chi Lambda, Gamma Alpha Omega, Kappa Delta Chi, Lamba Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc., Omega Delta Phi, Phi Beta Chi, Sigma Alpha Mu, Sigma Lambda Beta, and Sigma Lambda Gamma.

For more information on USFC, and other fraternities and sororities on the University of Arizona campus, please refer to the Fraternity and Sorority Programs (FSP) Website. 

Sergio Mejia

Sergio Mejia, with his older brother and parents.

Last week, I sat down with Sergio Mejia, to get a small glimpse into the unique experiences he has experienced in his life with his family.  He sat down with me, turned his Arizona hat forward, and began telling me about his own history.

Mejia was born in Colombia, the second son to his mother and father.  The four lived together for the earlier parts of his childhood, in close proximity to the rest of his extended family, a popular occurrence in the country.  According to Mejia, everything about Colombia is family-oriented.  “You live near all of your family, you’re not only close with your parents and brothers and sisters, but also with your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  We used to have 3-hour lunches just so we could go home from school and eat with our families.  My dad would come home for lunch, and wouldn’t leave until 2 or 3,” Mejia said.

Regardless of the closeness he experienced with his family, his mother ultimately made the decision to leave the country because of how dangerous it had become.  “In the last few years, things started to get very dangerous because of Pablo Escobar, and everything that came from it.  Shortly before we moved, Escobar had been shot, and the country started to get out of hand,” Mejia said.  The country got so unsafe, Mejia remembers not being able to cross the street to visit family, or a friend, without having to get permission from his parents, and be led across the street by a body guard.

The family left Colombia, and settled in Tucson, in the Catalina Foothills.  Mejia remembers how quiet it always was in the foothills when he first arrived, and how it reminded him of the serenity of Colombia before the country started to fall apart.  A few years later, he enrolled at the University of Arizona, a few miles south of his home.  In his first semester in the Fall of 2009, he went through rush and joined Beta Theta Pi.  “It seemed like the place I fit in most.  I wanted to branch out from my friends I had in high school, and find a new core group of friends that I would be close with for the rest of my life,” Mejia said.

It’s been a year and a half since Mejia joined Beta, and he was quick to convey he does not regret his decision in any way.  In fact, he maintained it was one of the best decisions he has ever made.  “I used to have two brothers, now I have 120 behind me at all times.  It makes you more comfortable about everything you do, because you’re not only doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your family.”

Mejia still manages to get back to Colombia every summer to visit his father and other family who stayed behind.  However, when he is back in the United States, he has family surrounding him every day within Beta Theta Pi.

(For more on Sergio Mejia, view a story written on Borderbeat.net)

Britt Wiedemer

Britt Wiedemer

Europe is home to many historical cities, all rich in tradition and culture.  However, one such city has gained more fame in past decades for its wild, unregulated side rather than the city’s history: Amsterdam.  The capital city of the Netherlands is still filled with a unique history, which is the thing Britt Wiedemer remembers most from her childhood in Amsterdam.

“My favorite part has to be the culture and how historical its past and its culture are.  It’s history holds a large part in the overall history of Europe,” Wiedemer said.

Wiedemer moved with her family to Amsterdam in 1992 at the age of two.  The Wiedemer’s made the move from Sarasota, Florida to the Netherlands because of a job offer her father received with IGT Gaming, where he would take the lead for the company’s international division.

Wiedemer stayed with her family in Amsterdam for the next five years, leaving just after she had reached her seventh birthday.  Per another job offer for her father, they moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, to take in the lights of the Vegas Strip, and the fast-paced American lifestyle.

The Las Vegas Strip (Photo from google images)

“That was one of the biggest differences, the overall feel of the environment is very different from life here, the people living their life in Amsterdam do not live at such a fast pace compared to people here,” Wiedemer said.  “The simplicity of even a day is not taken for granted as much as it is here.”

Despite moving from Amsterdam more than a decade ago, Wiedemer has yet had a chance to visit her old home.  Instead of escaping back to Europe, she ventured south to Tucson, and enrolled at UA.  “Arizona was just a school that allowed me to move away from home and be on my own without having to be to separated from my family,” she said.

Per her arrival, she went through sorority rush her first semester.  “Being very involved in high school I felt I wanted to continue on with finding something that I could further invest my time in, and also be able to help out others through the various philanthropic events we are able to participate in,” Wiedemer said.

She eventually settled with Pi Beta Phi, “because through out Recruitment it was the house that I truly felt most comfortable in and had the strongest connection with the girls that I had met.”  Wiedemer said.

It’s been thirteen years since Wiedemer left the wild, crazy city that is Amsterdam.  However, she remains positive about her experience thus far at Arizona, and has only high hopes for the future.  “Without a doubt, I have been able to gain a group of close friends that I can truly call my sisters and I believe will be very present throughout my life even after graduation.”

Marcin Bednarski

Marcin Bednarsk (picture taken from Facebook

Over the weekend, I sat down with Marcin Bednarski, the President of Beta Theta Pi at the University of Arizona.  Bednarski is one of the many members of Beta Theta Pi who was born in, and grew up in a country outside of the United States. After getting through a little small talk, we began our interview…

So you were born outside of the U.S.  Where were you born?

I was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1989.

How long did you live there?

I lived there for 13 years, through my 6th grade year.

When did your family move to the U.S.? And why?

We moved in June of 2002 due to my parents receiving green cards and making the decision to move. At the time, the US was at the peak of its economic strength, which drew my parents to here.

So your parents’ jobs were the main reasoning.  What do your parents do?

My father is a dental technician and my mother is a nail technician.

How many siblings do you have that moved with you and your family?

I have one sister, who also moved with us.

Do any other members of your family live in the U.S. or are all the others in Poland?

My dad’s brother, my godfather, lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. All my other relatives live in Poland.

How often do you get back to Poland?

Every other year during the summer.

What is the biggest difference between the U.S. and Poland?

There are many differences. I have to say that the biggest difference is the lifestyle. The U.S. is very materialistic while Poland places greater value on enjoyment of life rather than monetary possessions.

What made you decide to join Beta when you came to UA?

I lived in an apartment complex and never got the dorm experience because I declared late. I wanted to join a fraternity in order to expand my circle of friends, find a place I can call home at the UA, and enjoy the brotherhood and support of other people which is vital to a person’s well being.

Is there anything similar to fraternities at colleges and universities in Poland?

No, the Greek system in U.S. is very unique and there is nothing that even closely resembles it in Poland. A lot of students however envy our system of fraternities and would like something such as that to start up in Poland.

So are you happy you joined a fraternity then?

I am happy because whenever I need someone to talk to, ask for advice, ask for help or simply interact with all I have to do is open a door in my room. Simple interaction with all the great members of the fraternity by itself is enough. Apart form that however, my fraternity has developed and improved me as a person in countless ways. After pledge semester and taking part in fraternity life, I feel like there is nothing that I cannot accomplish or participate in. Beta has given me the courage and resources to take action, speak my mind and live a happy life apart from being a one of a kind social outlet. I will never regret joining this fraternity and I dread the day when my experience will have to end.

The Beta Theta Pi House

Bednarski is currently in his first semester as president of the 120-man house.  He will finish his term in office in the fall.  Aside from Beta, Bednarski is involved in many other campus organizations, including the Chain Gang Junior Honorary.  He is currently pursuing three majors: Entrepreneurship, Business Management, and Physiology, and hopes to attend dental school following graduation.  After dental school, he plans to open up his own orthodontics practice, somewhat following in the footsteps of his father.

Will Saetren

Photo courtesy of Will Saetren

Greek Systems on college campuses across the nation provide students with an opportunity to create a sort of “home away from home” when they step out from under the comfort of their parents house and enter the real world of secondary education.  In many cases, the families created by becoming part of a fraternity or sorority shape the eventual future of a college career, often stretching much later into an individuals life.  However, there are scenarios in which it only takes a few weeks or months for a person to realize the family they are working diligently to create may not be the best option. Such was the case with Will Saetren.

A citizen of both the United States and Norway, Saetren first enrolled in the University of Arizona in 2006.  Though he spent a majority of his childhood living in Norway, Saetren had already spent a significant amount of time in the states, and even spent a year as a student at Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson.  Because of his fathers role as a college professor in Norway, every few years he was able to travel to the states with his family to set up a temporary residence for a years time.

In his first semester at UA, Saetren opted to go through Fraternity Rush, ultimately landing him an invitation to join Sigma Alpha Epsilon.  Despite living in the U.S. for a few years of his childhood, he remained virtually ignorant of what the Greek system entailed.  “We don’t have any form of a Greek system in Norway, so everything I knew about fraternities I learned from movies like Animal House and Old School.  Those were still my references when I was about to go through rush, I didn’t know anything,” Saetren said.

It wasn’t long after he accepted his invitation to SAE that Saetren began to feel out of his element.  A few weeks into that first semester, his pledge semester, he made the decision to drop out of the house.  Though he never found a place in the fraternity, he was happy to have taken the opportunity, “It was definitely different, and would never have been something I could experience in Norway.”

The Kappa Alpha Theta house where Saetren worked as a hasher.

Even after his separation from SAE, Saetren still kept his foot in Greek life in a way.  For the final three years at UA, he worked as a hasher at Kappa Alpha Theta.  As a hasher, he would work in the kitchen and dining room of the sorority during lunch and dinners.  “That job was absolutely one of the most interesting jobs I’ve ever had,” Saetren said. “Some of the things I would see and hear in the house were crazy, after all I was an employee there and may not have been seen as a fellow student at all times.  I had a great time over the years as a hasher.”

Saetren recently graduated in December of 2010, and shortly after moved back to Norway to live with his family.  However, his tenure overseas will be short lived, as he plans on returning in the fall to attend graduate school at American University, pursuing a degree in Russian studies.  Until then, he remains as proof that even if a college kid cannot find a house they fit into does not necessarily constrict them from experiencing at least a small part of Greek life elsewhere.

Rikki Hirschowitz

Often times when people move from another country to the United States, they must adjust to the cultural differences present in our country.  Rikki Hirschowitz did not have to make these transitions based off her own experiences, but instead off the teachings of her parent’s experiences.

Rikki Hirschowitz

Hirschowitz was born in the United States, but moved with her family to South Africa when she was only six months old.  For over a year, she lived with her family in the African country before moving back to the United States, eventually settling in Dallas.  The family moved often prior to this because of her dad’s involvement in the diamond business, but settled in Dallas because of the unsafe environment at the time in South Africa.

Despite only living in South Africa for a year of her life, and a year she has no real recollection of, she still feels as if she grew up outside of the U.S.  “To this day I still feel like I was raised as if I lived in South Africa. Although I was in America when I learned to talk, I had South African accent when I was younger and as I got older in order to fit in with my friends I tried very hard to talk with an American accent,” Hirschowitz said.  Her upbringing varied from other children at her school in many ways, such as not being paid an allowance for completing household items because such chores were expected in South Africa.

The way in which her family practiced Judaism also was forced to be adjusted when they moved to the United States.  “The way (my parents) were brought up was a lot more strict than the way people practice it (in the U.S.) and when we were younger we were expected to practice it the exact same way they did.  As we got older my mom became a lot more lenient though,” Hirschowitz said.

Hirschowitz and her twin sister Bianca chose to attend the University of Arizona because of the large population of Jewish students, at the urgings of her mother (in 2009, UA ranked 19th on the list of public universities with the highest population of Jewish students).Attending school far from home also was difficult for her parents to accept because of differing traditions in secondary education between South Africa and the U.S.  “In South Africa kids don’t go away for college.  They graduate high school, take a ‘gap year’ where they can travel if they want to, and then move back home and live with their parents while they attend college,” Hirschowitz said.

Rikki and twin sister Bianca at age 8

Upon arriving at UA, Hirschowitz and her sister went through sorority rush to meet other people, despite having no real intentions of joining a sorority.  “I had absolutely no idea what a sorority or fraternity even was, and still after over a year and a half I have to explain things to my parents.”

Overcoming her original doubts, she joined Alpha Delta Pi with her sister, and is now in her fourth semester as a member of the sorority.  “If I had not joined a sorority I can honestly say I would have already either transferred to a school closer to my family or to a better film school,” Hirschowitz said.  Had she not joined a sorority, she maintains she does not think she, “would have been able to have a normal college experience because I would not have been surrounded by over 200 girls from different areas of the U.S. and the different various ways they were brought up.”

Hirschowitz is currently studying media arts, and plans to pursue a career in film production in the future.  This summer, she plans to intern in South Africa with her uncle’s production company, which produces commercials in South Africa.  After graduating, she hopes to work in Hollywood, or  “if all goes well I would absolutely love to go back to South Africa.”

New Mission

To the reader:

As you may have noticed, the appearance and mission of this page has changed.  My previous topic was not generating enough information, and I went on a search for something more prominent, more enticing for a UA student to relate to- thus I arrived at Greek Life.  Greek institutions have been around for hundreds of years.  The first recognized fraternity was started at the College of William and Mary on December 5, 1776. before our country had even become its own nation. As the years passed, more fraternities and sororities started up new chapters, and today more than 1,500 Greek letter organizations exist around the country.  Greek Life has been an integral part in the college careers of hundreds of thousands of college students.  Countless business and world leaders have been part of these social organizations.  Since 1825, all but two Presidents and Vice Presidents serving in office have been a part of Greek Life.

Greek life has traveled to campus’ around the nation, including here at the University of Arizona.  Today, more than 50 fraternities and sororities are recognized on campus, all which are separated into four groups, The Interfraternity Council (IFC), the Panhellenic Association (PHC), the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), and the United Sorority and Fraternity Council (USFC).

Starting next week, a UA student with an international background will be profiled, giving a detailed history of their past, their experiences in Greek Life, and how the system is similar, or completely different than any system they may have had in the other country(ies) they have lived in.

If you have any students who have an international background and would like to see a profile piece about them, feel free to email me at wjrapp@email.arizona.edu.  Enjoy the page