By Roxanna Gandia (Gamma Pi, University of Tampa)
Growing up in Puerto Rico, the importance of family is a cultural value that is instilled from an early age. For me, spending time with family (immediate and extended) was something we did at least once a week growing up. So when I moved to the States at 18 to go to the University of Tampa, I was searching for people I could call my new family, i.e. my new community. I went through recruitment in search of that new family and found it in Alpha Chi. It was an easy decision to join Alpha Chi because after meeting the sisters during the events, I knew it was where I belonged.
The exact moment I knew I belonged was during the third round of recruitment, at that time known as Skit Day. The sisters had finished their skit, and we were in small groups talking. I was chatting with a group of sisters about how much I loved dancing when one of the sisters asked me what type of dancing I enjoyed. We found out that we both enjoyed salsa dancing and that she was also Latina. It felt welcoming to meet a sister who identified as Latina, and I got very excited. So, while talking about our Latinidad and salsa dancing, we decided to just begin dancing some salsa steps in the middle of the round. It has been 16 years since I went through recruitment, and the fact that I still remember that experience shows how much of an impact Alpha Chi has had on me.
Moving to the U.S. was a totally new experience and cultural transition. Alpha Chi helped make that transition easier, since I had sisters who I could ask for help or seek advice from when I was experiencing something new or who I could spend time with when I felt homesick. From dancing salsa, to introducing them to Puerto Rican food, to speaking Spanglish with them, I knew I could count on my sisters to help me feel accepted and part of a family. Alpha Chi positively shaped my growth and development, even when things were tough. During my collegiate experience, I was able to learn a lot about myself and find my voice. I attribute finding my voice to growing and developing into a real, strong woman.
For me, being a real, strong woman means understanding the duality within ourselves. It means being independent but also knowing when to ask for help. It means being a leader but also knowing when to step back and let others lead. It means finding and using our voices to educate others and fight for ourselves, but also using it to help others whose voices might be getting ignored by others.
As a new mother of a soon-to-be 9-month-old baby girl, I want to help her grow into a real, strong woman – a real, strong woman who knows and is proud of her heritage, culture and legacy.