Home Sweet Home to Me by Caroline Coon

You know that feeling you would get when you were little on the last leg of a long road trip when you are about to get to where you were going? That feeling for me came every few months when it was time to make the 8 hour car ride from my house in Falls Church, Virginia to Maryville, Tennessee to see my Mammy.

Once we got off the exit that spits you from Knoxville to Maryville and we started passing Walmart and Chick-Fil-A, my mom would see my little face and sleepy brown eyes pop up from the backseat in the rearview mirror of her white Toyota minivan. I would anxiously start putting on my shoes and grab my hot pink brush from the center console, trying to get myself ready for the Olympic sprint I was about to make out of the automatic doors and into the sweetest hug of my Mammy.  

Looking back, I would make the 8 hour drive to that slice of Heaven a million times over. The excitement of knowing where you’re going will result in you feeling more loved than you thought possible is a feeling that cannot be explained.  Mammy taught me what it meant to like someone because of who they are, and to love them despite of their shortcomings.

Mammy passed away my junior year of high school and ever since then I let that car ride feeling fade away, I maybe even stopped looking for it.  I’m still experiencing the pain of losing her everyday, and I still miss that car ride feeling of anticipation before seeing her. I’ve come to realize that that feeling was the feeling of coming home. I hadn’t really had that feeling again until recruitment, when I was standing in line outside the AOII house.

Waiting in line on that slanted sidewalk leading up to the house at the top of the hill during recruitment, I felt a joy and an excitement that I was about to walk into this house and be shown what made it a home. I felt like I needed to throw on my light up sketchers and grab my hot pink hair brush from the middle console and get ready to feel loved.  The slanted sidewalk felt like I was passing the Walmart and Chick-Fil-A, and being grabbed at the door of AOII felt like coming home to a hug from Mammy.

On all of those car rides, I didn’t want to brush my hair and wake myself up before seeing Mammy because I felt like I had to perform for her or that she would love me any less if I came barreling into her house barefoot and hair like a rat’s nest. I wanted to be my best, most awake, and content self so that as soon as she wrapped me in her hug I was living in the present moment, and that I could soak in second of pure joy without worrying about the little things.  From recruitment up until right now as I write this, I know in my heart that this sisterhood is the sisterhood I prayed I would find coming into college. AOII is not just my sorority, it's another place to call home.

There is something about the people that love you the most and their ability to make anywhere feel like home.  It isn’t a magic phrase or a really cool video, but it’s when they look past everything about you and see you for you. The feeling that you have to perform goes away and a peace wraps you up like a blanket. I’m thankful everyday that the women of AOII let me see a piece of my Mammy, and that I now have a new slice of heaven where I can always count on a hug when I walk through the doors and someone to tell me how loved I am.

Mammy never just said “I love you” she always said “I love you more, my sweet Caroline.” while she just added a few words to the end of I love you she did two monumental things: she always reminded me that even when I thought that I always had someone who was going to love me more than I love myself, and that she knew who I was.  Going through recruitment at AOII, I felt that they knew who I was, and that were going to love all the parts of myself that I hadn’t learned to love yet. They liked me because of who is am and loved me despite of my shortcomings.

I’ll forever wonder what I did that made me deserving of having a sisterhood like AOII. The house at the top of the hill is a house made of love, filled with a lot of women that make me a better me.

I love you more, AOII <3


Caroline Coon


More Than the Stereotypes by Anna Darty

I was sitting in a class, listening to a discussion about the effects of Greek life on party culture.

I heard the community that I have come to see as my family torn down. I heard stereotypes about the girls I see as my closest friends. I heard the negative bias against one of the most empowering group of women I have ever met. I kept my mouth shut, afraid of feeding into the stereotype, until the words, “It’s all just an opportunity to party,” come out.

Now, here I am, writing to you, the reader. Whether you be a sister of mine, a member of the Greek community, or simply someone looking to see how we view ourselves as a whole, I want to talk about what Greek life has added to my life.

In high school, I would not have considered myself “popular.” I had my close friends, and that was enough for me. I went to a very small high school, graduating with 107 other people. So, when I came to the University of Tennessee, I was desperate to find where I fit in at such a large school. I considered joining a sorority was the quickest way to establish that. This was the majority of the reason I rushed the fall of my freshman year. When I opened my AOII bid letter, I was so excited. Quickly thrown into the sisterhood, I was completely unaware of how much AOII would mean to me.

I went through freshman year, amazed by my sisters: from the girls who fiercely defend us, to the girls who teach us to see the best in people. I became friends with the outspoken, the confident, and the candid. I also became friends with the peaceful, the shy, and the humble. I learned from the girls who have been accepted to the top graduate schools in their fields and the girls who are comfortable enough to ask for help in a hard class. For the past two years, I have been encouraged to be my best self every single day. Most importantly, I have surrounded myself with some of the most inspiring and intelligent women I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

The thing that really upset me about the people in my class was that I will always have to work harder to defend my AOII family because of the negative stereotypes that tend to surround the Greek community.

I wanted to tell them the names of Olympic athletes, politicians, and artists all who claim the letters of a Greek organization. I wanted to stand up and defend the importance of the letters on my shirt. Too often, we think we have to defend ourselves by putting others down, but that isn’t what an Alpha Omicron Pi sister would do.

Much like other organizations, the cornerstone of Alpha Omicron Pi is love. Instead of yelling at the people in my class that they were claiming to understand something they have never experienced, I started talking about all of the incredible influences my sisters have had on me. From academically, to personally, to simply making me get out of my comfort zone far too often, my sisters are always there to push me a step further. They challenge me in ways I will never quite be able to describe. They have taught me exactly what it means to be a part of something way bigger than myself.

They love me, and I will defend the love that my sisterhood shares until the end of my days, because being a sorority woman is so much bigger than our stereotype.

We raise money for philanthropies that change the world, we have each other’s backs no matter what letters we wear, and we love the world around us so fiercely.

One of the most influential women in American politics, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was the second female justice to be confirmed to the US Supreme Court. She was also a sorority woman at Cornell University from 1950 until her graduation in 1954. Since then, she has inspired millions of women across the country and the rest of the world. RBG once said, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” Truer words have never be spoken.

And, while I know that not everyone shares the negative opinion of the people from my class, from now on, I choose to fight the stereotype by showing the love I have for my sisters towards the world around me. I will never belittle the accomplishments of my sisters, and I will be open about how proud I am to be there to witness them. I will speak with love and kindness always.

Because from the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can never explain it. But, we can at least try.


Anna Darty


The Truth About Freshman Year by Laura Bowers

The day I moved six hours from home, my roommate and I nervously used Google Maps to find Thompson-Boling Arena for our Panhellenic recruitment orientation. We met our Gamma Chi groups and listened to a presentation, but we were both too anxious to listen. After we got back to our dearly beloved South Carrick, we talked for hours about what we thought the week would hold.


Fast forward to Bid Day, and I knew that when I opened my envelope it would say Alpha Omicron Pi—a chapter I had connected with the whole week. But in the middle of the screaming girls and running up the (shockingly) steep hill to the AOII house, I panicked. What was I doing? Why on earth did I not pick the same sorority as my friends? Did I just make a huge mistake?


My mind flooded with insecurities and I kept wishing I was with girls I already knew.


That first week after Bid Day was tough. The girls in my pledge class seemed nice enough, and I already loved the girl who would later become my Big, but I was still uneasy about my choice. Patience is not my strong suit, and I was frustrated that I didn’t love my sorority right away like so many girls seem to.


A week after Bid Day, Maggie, my roommate who is in another chapter, met Sydney Craig, a girl in my pledge class, at an RUF Bible study. We got back to the room and she looked at me and said, “I think y’all are going to be friends.” I hadn’t connected with anyone in my pledge class yet, so I dramatically thought, “Yeah, whatever Mag.”


That weekend, Maggie and I decided to go to Max Patch to watch the sunrise in the mountains. The day before our little trip, she asked me if I wanted to invite Sydney. My first thought was no. I didn’t know this girl. What if she didn’t want to be my friend? I could tell Maggie wanted me to say yes, so I reluctantly invited this random girl to spend a whole day with us.


And I am so glad I did.


That night I laid in bed, smiled, and thought, “Okay. I’m going to be just fine. I have a friend.”


Looking back, I had unrealistic expectations for how quickly I would feel connected to my chapter. I thought that while Bid Day goes on, some magic fairy waves her wand over Sorority Village and ta da! All of the girls love their chapter and its members. But friendships take time. I once heard that friendship is just a lot of shared experiences. And slowly, but surely, I’ve had plenty of shared experiences with my sisters. Like another trip to Max Patch when my car broke twice, and I had ten selfless girls rush to help me. Like getting dinner with Hadley O’Hara and Aubrey Robinson after SGA on Thursday’s and being sore the next day from laughing so hard. Like meeting Julia Craig’s pet pig with Sydney, Lauren Wilson, Annie Wehinger, and Sumner Thompson.


But AOII is also about sharing experiences that aren’t always fun. Like sobbing to my (future) Big during the last round of recruitment as I told her my testimony. Like giving her updates on how the Lord is using the hardest trial of my life to change the way I love people. Like getting hard phone calls from her and feeling my heart break because I can’t take away her pain.


I was so quick to make up my mind about AOII, but now I can’t imagine my life without it. I’m proud to be with a group of women who care so profoundly for one another that they radiate joy. I’m proud to be with a group of women who share a special bond and are stronger together. I’m also proud that I took a leap of faith and ended up in the chapter where I knew no one.


So thank you, Omicron, for the laughs, tears, prayers, and everything in-between. And thank you, Maggie, for strongly suggesting that I invite Sydney Craig to Max Patch.


Sheaf of Wheat Wednesday by Abby Anderson

Coming into college, I was unsure if I was a “sorority girl.” I didn’t see myself fitting in with what I imagined Greek life to be like, and I was hesitant to put my identity in something that had so many negative stereotypes. I came out of an all girls’ high school knowing who I was and what I believed in. I learned in high school that I could do anything I set my mind to and that I was strong enough to fight against the limitations of gender in today’s society. I knew that Greek life would give me a group of people to hang out with, but what I didn’t realize is that it too would empower me, strengthen me, and further shape me into a strong, confident woman.


The Panhellenic community is comprised of future entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, legislators, and to put it simply, it is comprised of world-changers. What people often don’t see when they see sororities is that our members together log hundreds of thousands of service hours each year, that we are consistently higher than the all women undergraduate GPA, and that our members are often the leaders of other campus organizations. I am overwhelmingly proud to be a “sorority girl” and to know so many women that defy the stereotypes of Greek life.


Many of those women that make me proud to be in a sorority are the 234 women of Alpha Omicron Pi. Over the last three years, it has become clear to me that our chapter was perfectly and wonderfully handcrafted by God. Jokingly this past year, I was trying to come up with a phrase to go with a day of the week where we could post pictures of our friends with some hashtag along the lines of #whyaoiiwednesday. However, I wanted something that represented our chapter’s personality or that was more original, and hence #sheafofwheatwednesday was created. The sheaf is used in a lot of special ways in Alpha Omicron Pi internationally, but it wasn’t until recently that I was reminded of the meaning behind this symbol. It represents a group of individuals bound together and made stronger together than they are apart. It represents a community that brings out one another’s strengths and talents and makes every person feel that they belong. It is such a blessing to be surrounded by the loveliest of human beings. It is the everyday moments and it is each and every one of the 234 members of this chapter that make me love aoii with all my heart.


It is Alison Kilgore for reassuring me in a mental breakdown over organic chemistry that I am smart enough to be a doctor. She is the most constant friend I’ve ever had, and I can’t imagine what college would be like without her advice and love.


It is Hannah Craig, who believed I was a leader when I was unsure of myself. She is not only a role model for our chapter, but she can tell stories that end with every single person literally rolling on the floor laughing.


It is Abby Hale for leaving me encouraging notes on my bed. Whether it be during finals week or on a random day, she lets me know I am loved and points me in the direction of Jesus.


It is Hadley O’Hara, who is the only freshman serving on Leadership Council and has more grace, poise, humility, and kindness than I have ever seen all wrapped into one person.

It is Jesse Higdon, who assured a random high school senior girl that she didn’t have to pretend to be someone she wasn’t to go through recruitment. Thank goodness for Jesse because that random girl is now one of my roommates and one of my very favorite people on this earth. Annalyce Bass doesn’t live a day without checking on the needs of other people. She is sunshine and goodness and makes all of my days happier.


It is Nathalie Flores for making friendships with so many of the sophomore pledge class while living in the house as a senior and truly giving her all for this organization. She is faithful, inspiring, intentional, and dedicated.  


It is an email from a dad thanking whichever of our members drove the car with the aoii sticker on the back that randomly paid for his and his son’s meal in the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A.


It is our recruitment. It is how we take a time that can be stressful and negative for so many chapters and turn it into a time to celebrate one another and all the reasons our chapter is so near to our hearts.


It is the ten aoii girls I live with. They are my best friends, the best roommates, the people I want to talk about my day with, and the people I want to have reunions with every single year after we graduate.


It is a hard feeling to sometimes put into words, but all I know is that it feels selfish that not everyone gets to experience it. There is something special about knowing people are still going to be in your life 50+ years from now, and it warms my heart thinking about it. It is rare to find a community that seeks heart and character and that allows you to truly come as you are, meets you where you’re at, and continuously pours into you and lifts you up. This chapter is the type of community that makes every member feel like they have something to give, that their presence matters. I am utterly amazed at the vast amount of encouragement I have felt through this chapter, and I am so immensely proud to know and be known by these women.

 So, to the 234 girls that are, without hesitation, the most amazing, down to earth, compassionate, silly, and life-giving group of women I know—thank you. You are the reason I love this chapter. You ALL make me so proud to be an Alpha Omicron Pi and to be a sorority woman, and I hope I can return the feeling this next year and leave our place better and more beautiful than I found it.


Abby Anderson