Do you remember the last time you were in a brand new setting? Making friends and being yourself isn’t so easy when you’re not in your comfort zone, but sometimes there are ways to ease these transitions. Arlina Garcia is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and a sister of the “Oh So Fly” Xi Chapter of the Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority. Through this sorority, she has transitioned into a college student who proudly embraces her heritage in her daily life.
What was the most difficult part about transitioning from high school to college?
The most difficult part about transitioning from high school to college was definitely the culture shock. I pictured UT to be very diverse, but when I arrived I was surprised by the large number of White students on campus. I felt out casted at times in my classes. I grew up in Houston, in a predominately African American and Latino community. The environment was a lot different at UT than my previous schooling institutions. Joining SLG definitely helped me transition.
Why did you decide to rush?
Even though I knew a good number of people at UT from my school district, I still felt alone at times. I did not feel like my peers had the same goals and mind set as mine. I came in to UT wanting to join a sorority, but I never would have thought I’d join a Latina based sorority. I saw the Gammas perform a step and stroll and “Go Greek”, an event the Latino Pan-Hellenic council puts on every semester, and it sparked my interest. After attending an informational I knew Sigma Lambda Gamma was the right sorority for me. All the sisters had accomplished so much during their time at UT. I could see Gammas were ambitious, confident women and that is exactly what I wanted to be surrounded by. A positive influence to push me to pursue all my aspirations.
How has being a UT Gamma influenced your views on your culture?
I have become very proud of my heritage and have gained so much knowledge of not only my own culture, but others as well. I truly value diversity in my everyday life now. I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa this past summer, my first time leaving the state of Texas, and now I want to travel the world! Because: “Culture is pride, Pride is success.”
Describe your sisterhood in 3 words.
“Hermanas por vida.”
What’s your favorite memory?
I have too many memories with my sisters to choose one. I would have to say my probate was an amazing day. A probate is a coming out show, after pledging a semester. When I took off my mask and revealed myself as “Arlina ‘Ambiciosa’ Garcia,” and stood next to my line sisters with my letters on for the first time, it was unforgettable.
Has being a member in your sorority made you feel closer to your roots? Why or why not?
Definitely, my family is very Tejano, so learning from my sisters who grew up with a more traditionally Mexican family is so interesting. I have learned to appreciate the values my parents strived to instill in me.
What does your family back home think about your involvement?
Being a first generation college student, I do not think my family fully understands the purpose and meaning of a sorority. However, they have been more than supportive. They have expressed that their proud of me for going through the journey of becoming a sister and how involved I have become. They also loved coming to our family weekend we host for all our parents, annually. And I must say, watching my 6’ 3” dad dominate in the sack races was priceless.
What has been the greatest benefit/s?
Self-growth. I came in to UT very reserved, timid, and disengaged. Since becoming a sister of Sigma Lambda Gamma, I have really learned the importance of opening up. It is necessary to build relationships. You cannot improve by staying in your comfort zone. I have definitely grown a voice. For example, I speak up in class a lot more often, which is beneficial for being successful in college. I am definitely not afraid to provide input or state my opinion. I have learned the importance of networking and am no longer to put myself out there and meet people.
What advice would you give our Latinitas readers about the whole college experience?
DO THE MOST. Branch out. Study Abroad. Get a mentor. Go to different campus events. Join organizations. Do community Service. Do research. Hang out with new people. Do not just stay in your dorm room. Your undergraduate career will contain some of your best memories and you do not want to regret this time. Always remember to keep your academics a priority. Yes college is fun, but the reason you are at your institution is to get a degree. Never give up either. It can get stressful and overwhelming but you have to keep pushing. Use your resources wisely, colleges offer tutoring, skills workshops, office hours, career services, advising, and writing centers. By being a minority and a woman, making the most of your education will make a lot of people proud. Overall, stay committed and open minded.
If you’re interested in learning more about the UT Gammas visit www.texasgammas.org.