Since my last post I have been traveling all around Virginia and Upstate New York.
Ithaca Is Gorges
One of the things I am most passionate about is spending time with nature. So naturally I try and take in the surrounding area anytime I visit a new Alpha. The phrase “Ithaca is Gorges” can be found all over Cornell on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and laptops. The campus is nestled on a hill that rests at the bottom of a valley, and gorges are everywhere. If you venture off in any direction from campus you will find gorges at every turn. There is a path from Alpha Psi’s backyard that takes you five minutes to get to one of the more popular gorges for students. If gorges aren’t your thing, the tallest waterfall in the United States east of the Mississippi is just a 15 minute drive away. Taughannock Falls, home to an impressive 215-foot-high cascade, is about 15 feet taller than the US portion of Niagara Falls. I have been to a lot of places and Upstate New York is definitely up there in terms of natural beauty.
Alpha Phi at Hamilton College has a mantra which ends up being more of a rallying cry called, “The Hang.” All that you need to start a Hang are two brothers doing anything really. Study/Dinner/Video Games/Movie/No More Girls were all variations of The Hang that I took in during my week in Clinton, New York (one Brother colloquially known as Moose’s favorite type of Hang is Cocktail Hour). Watching The Hang happen is really a thing of beauty. Anytime Brothers are together doing something they send out a groupme or e-mail the entire Alpha letting everyone knowing that a Hang is in progress and that anybody is welcome to come.
My personal favorite variation of the Hang is Pub Hang. It is a tradition that has been going on for years at Phi— everyday at 11:30 any Chipster(a term Phi self-identifies themselves as) free for lunch heads to the Pub, one of the few options on campus to eat. For the next hour they take over an entire area of the restaurant as Brothers cycle in and out. It reminded me of my own Alpha’s tradition that I helped start my senior year of going to a local bar on Wednesday nights for Trivia Night. Think of ways that you can build in semi-regular brotherhood events that everyone looks forward to going to if their schedule permits.
When you are on the road 24/7 (seriously I don’t have an apartment, I live with Chi Psis) it becomes hard to get into a routine. One of the easiest ways that I’ve been able to build in some routine is what I call “MacDonalds Office”. McDonalds has spent a lot of capitol improving the appearance of their stores over the past five years, emphasizing a more calm color scheme and flatscreens. I caught on to this trend in college and would actually head to MacDonalds (I refer to it as MacDonalds both in text and in conversation the majority of the time) to study. For one dollar you get free wifi, all of the caffeine that you want, and very limited social distractions. Sure, you are much more likely to encounter an attractive barista at Starbucks or Sarah from your English class at the campus library, but nothing makes you want to get work done more than seeing some super-stressed-out-going-through-a-mid-life-crisis-white-collar-professional-eating-solo scarf down a Big Mac with fries. If you study best with natural background noise, but do not want to be distracted by anybody that you know, try MacDonalds Office out. And for someone on the road, it provides some constant familiarity no matter where I am visiting.
Sir, Ma’am, and the Honor Code
Washington & Lee has this built in culture of students referring to any elder as Sir or Ma’am. It really sets the tone for what is a very historically unique college. An all boys school until 1983 (on the undergraduate side, the graduate programs let females in a couple years earlier), things are slow to change in Lexington, Virginia. One of the more unique features of the school is their Honor Code. Every student signs an agreement, committing themselves to academic integrity. A violation of the code is treated with swift and brutal student-led justice. Ultimately, it creates a very unique academic setting. Oftentimes professors will let students take exams out of class and expect them to hold themselves to a set time limit. There was one anecdote shared with me about a student who took over a desk in the library of campus for four years. All of his books, study materials, et cetera were placed on this desk 24/7 for four years (even during the Summer). He never had anything stolen from that desk.
Everyone, everywhere, at every single Alpha watches Breaking Bad. It is a total Chi Psi cultural universal. And now it is over. This is a bittersweet moment for Chi Psis everywhere. Vince Gilligan nailed that series finale though, right?!