McGill: Where the Wild Things Are
“I don’t feel like joining a frat,” I said to my friends back home before I left for Nashville. “It doesn’t suit my persona.”
“Well, good luck, then!” they responded. “You’re on your way to frat central.”
At first, I actually believed them. I heard about how stereotypically Southern Vandy was in every way it could go wrong — not fitting in unless you were wasted every weekend or sporting whatever the J. Crew models advertised and being a socially (and slightly politically) blue dot in a sea of red. Add that to the obstacles of finding completely new friends and adjusting to a completely new school without the cohesive community or help of the Commons, and you get one giant bundle of anxiety.
Let me clarify by stating that I’m a transfer student, so I’ve already spent my freshman year at another college — the University of Texas at Dallas, to be exact. I left looking for a more academically challenging and a (much) more traditional college experience. The most daunting thing about transferring is saying good-bye to your old friends and wondering whether you’ll make friends who are just as close or closer, and since almost every upperclassmen formed their friendships and connections during that formative freshman year, I, facing social bubbles solidified long ago, was at a disadvantage to begin with.
With the concerns of a “fratmosphere” and “blank slate,” I didn’t know how I’d enjoy myself.
Weeks before move-in day, however, I got an email from the university saying I could apply to be in a Living Learning Community, a residence hall where social life in your hall thrives through constant socializing with your fellow residents and special programs. There were two available for transfers: the McGill Project and Mayfield. The description of the McGill Project stated that an annual art project and weekly discussions of controversial topics were involved, while the email described Mayfield as simply a hall where transfers would get to know each other in a specific floor. I then looked at where both buildings were located and decided that McGill seemed to be by far the more convenient location, as it was located on the main campus, where (almost) all of my classes would take place. Thus, I completed an application to McGill. The next day, I got an email saying I got in.
I was excited to be in a place where socializing with others would be more frequent, but the thought of attempting to making new friends and the failure thereof still itched my mind — like a mosquito bite that just won’t go away. They already knew each other, I thought, so why would they talk to a newcomer like me?
McGill surprised me in many terrific ways. During my very first night at Vanderbilt, after my parents said their good-byes, I was invited by my roommate to watch a movie with nine others in her dorm. A few nights later, I noticed a trend: many people in my hall love keeping their doors open. What’s even better: more than one person seemed to occupy most of these rooms (most dorms are singles here). Within just one month, I seemed to know half the people in this hall. Was it perhaps the weekly controversial talks in the TV lounge that bring half the res hall together? Was it the many parties that occurred every weekend, apart from the frat parties going on just one block away? The frequently themed parties and heated competitions of Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros., perhaps? In any case, McGill felt the most welcoming experience in my short time here — even more welcoming than transfer orientation!
The best part: almost none of my fellow residents are your stereotypical Vandy student. Nobody here is all about frat parties or Greek life; everybody has a liberal bent; and all identities are welcomed with open arms, whether gay, straight, bi, trans, and everything in between. Heck, just a few weeks ago, we hosted a Dungeons and Drag Queens party, where most people dressed up as either a fantasy character or the opposite sex.
I honestly didn’t think it was true at first, but Vanderbilt does have a place for everyone to find kindred spirits. Living here was the best decision I’ve made. I may not have had the Commons experience, but this is much better. Why? Because the seasoned veterans chose this place and want to be here, making our social interactions all the more vibrant.
To all my friends back home: I’m not in a frat, and I am perfectly fine with that.