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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

Simply Brothers by Paul B. '11

Finding brothers and brotherhood in MIT's fraternities.

I grew up in a house composed almost entirely of girls. Genetic odds to the contrary, I’m the only guy out of four children. That’s right: I have three sisters. And while I love all of them dearly (am I allowed to say the L-word on this blog?), I won’t deny that some small part of me always wanted to have a brother.

Last Saturday, that dream came true. Except I didn’t get just one brother, or even three.

I got forty.

As some of you already know, since early September I have been a member of Phi Kappa Sigma, one of MIT’s 27 fraternities. After starting out as a “pledge” – a probationary member, as it were – I was formally and officially initiated into the brotherhood, along with ten classmates, last Saturday. The past semester has been an incredible journey for me, academically and otherwise, and my fraternity has played a huge role in my life ever since I came here. When I accepted the offer to join Phi Kappa Sigma, I knew that would be one of the most important decisions I’ve made this year. Now that I’m a brother, I can say without any reservation whatsoever that it was also one of the best.

Earlier today, one of my good friends asked me if I “felt any different” after Initiation. It’s a simple question, really. But at the same time, it goes straight to the heart of what it means to be a member of a fraternity. Because the fact of the matter is, actually, yes. At least for me, becoming a brother is not simply a change in title. It’s actually a meaningful change in the way I feel about myself, my future, and – most importantly – my fraternity as a whole. If I had to put it into words, the primary difference is an almost overwhelming sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction with a job well done and well rewarded.

Over the past semester, my pledge brothers and I worked as hard as we possibly could to live up to the expectations of our newfound brothers – just as every other brother before us had. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes we screwed up – as individuals, and as a class. Occasionally we let ourselves get carried away with petty arguments, or allowed our tempers and egos to get the better of us. But one way or another, we always worked through those conflicts, and we went on to achieve some pretty remarkable goals – not the least of which was remodeling our house’s basement, though I can think of many others.

And in the end, we were initiated together as eleven new brothers, the way it was meant to be.

Beyond that sense of satisfaction, the greatest change is a feeling of ownership, of belonging – of, in a word, fraternity. When I walk into our six-story brownstone on Beacon Street, I’m not just visiting “my fraternity house” – I am actually coming home. Whether I see them at home playing Rock Band, or around the dinner table, or simply walking down the Infinite, the brothers of Phi Kappa Sigma actually are my brothers. It’s that simple.

And it’s that important.

22 responses to “Simply Brothers”

  1. Jalpan Dave says:

    Hey! Your situation resembles mine! I too sometimes wish I had a bro and had not been an only child.

    But just like you, I’ve found great bros in some of the people (boyz of course. hahaha) that I’ve met in high school. Actually, one of them has replied to yuor post above:):):):)

    Paul, need ur advice on one thing. im gonna do a UROP next year. any advice on how i can find a good topic of my interest??

    if it’s not too much trouble, can you respond to the email ID i filled out above?

    Thanks a ton!!

  2. Aditi says:

    Awwwwwww!

    i’m happy for you

  3. milena '11 says:

    I’ll join the masses here– awwwwwww!!!

    That was so cute! I must admit I’ve never liked the idea of sororities, and I still don’t, but frats… I like frats. I like how they kinda force you all to bond with each other and work hard before making you officially part of the house. Congrats!! And by the way, we’re in the same 5.12 recitation grin

  4. Karen says:

    Congratulations!

    I can say, without a doubt, that the most important people to me are my friends, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve made yours your family too smile

  5. Nihar says:

    Congrats Paul..
    I dont have siblings and needless to say there have been loads of times when I longed for the company of one. But I guess that being the only child did bring me and my parents closer…cant bear the thought of sharing their love for me with anyone.

    Wow…I never knew I could talk like that. Its got a lot to do with your post Paul…comes right from the heart.

    Keep it coming bro!

  6. José P. says:

    2.546479π-th!

    Being part of something is important—congratulations. I can’t side with you on the brother situation, though. I’m perfectly okay with my one sister. :D

  7. Libin Daniel says:

    An Excellent post buddy. The fraternities are really a lot alive..the way it should be.
    @ Nihar: You are very true. Sometimes, boredom just envelopes the life so badly. Experiencing it since 18 years.

  8. Ale says:

    Paul, do you think that being part of a sport, especially one that is (almost excessively) time consuming and year round like rowing, would help form a similar “brotherhood.”
    Or would you recommend joining a fraternity anyways?

  9. Very nice, Paul. Congrats!

    So, whats your opinion about other fraternities? While I understand you like PKS best, would you say that one gets these feelings from joining any fraternity (or at least a few)?

    Basically I’m asking if you recommend the concept of (MIT) fraternities alot and PKS a little more or the concept of fraternities some and PKS some more? (or some other combination of the words concept, fraternities, PKS, and more that I forgot)

    anyway, once again, congrats!
    ~Donald

  10. Paul says:

    Jalpan – I’ve sent you an email, so I hope you find my response useful.

    E. Rosser – Thanks! The brothers really liked the lounge, actually. I have some pictures that I’ll be posting (along with some other semi-orphaned photos from IAP) later on.

    Ale – My roommate runs cross country and track, and he hangs out with his athletic friends (both guys and girls, actually) all the time. That being said, a lot of athletes I know are affiliated with a fraternity. Like everything else at MIT, you need to strike a balance, but there is definitely time for both. (In PKS, we have a couple Ultimate players and a track runner.)

    Donald – Again, thanks! I’m friends with many newly-initiated brothers at other fraternities, and all of them are just as excited about their respective houses as I am about PKS. The Greek system as a whole is very strong at MIT. I think most brothers are pretty proud to be known as fraternity men.

    That being said, it’s pretty clear to me that, of the various houses I visited during Rush, PKS was and remains the best fit for me. So to actually answer your question, I guess you could say I like the fraternity system at MIT a lot and PKS a little more. smile But with 27 fraternities on campus, there’s truly a lot of variety between houses. If you’re interested in joining a fraternity here, you will almost certainly find one that suits you.

  11. Lulu says:

    Congrats! :D You’ll make an amazing brother.

  12. Muz says:

    That’s touching. Congrats smile

    To be honest, fraternities have always scared me a little. I think it has mostly to do with movies and certain MTV cartoons, lol.

    But I can relate a little, because I have a few friends whom I’d consider as brothers. We would get into fights, drift apart, move to other towns, but even after 4 years of no longer being classmates, we still drive to other states to see each other every few months. Sometimes, in the big, bad world out there, it’s nice to know that there are people with you along the way smile

  13. rko says:

    I was pleasantly surprised to come back to PKT and find the banner back where it belongs. Was a trade-off conducted? raspberry

  14. Query says:

    @paul:
    This is out of context but could I know how the financial aid application can be tracked on the My MIT acdcount

  15. E. Rosser says:

    Congrats! And a nice post, to boot.
    How did the lounge/basement turn out, then?
    And almost better than friends are friends with “Rock Band!” Ha–does that sound shallow? “Rock Band” might be a fraction of the reason college looks so appealing at the moment… Whoa, second serving of shallow…

  16. JV says:

    I never thought I would consider pledging to a fraternity, but your post makes me want to keep an open mind, thanks, very insightful.

  17. bcdefg says:

    soo excited that you finally have brothers! your sisters must be soo soo excited for you…do your brothers become their brothers now?

  18. Paul says:

    Query – No problem. I talked to Ben and apparently the financial aid tracking is not working quite yet. It should be ready soon!

    rko – :D

  19. Neil says:

    Glad to hear you are enjoying it. It has been 20 years since I met my Phi Kap brothers (Go Beta Rho). There are still a group of us (about 12 )that still get together whenever we can. Enjoy yourself and help recruit more Phi Kaps to share the fun and brotherhood of the fraternity.

  20. Piper says:

    You know what’s funny? I always wanted a brother, too. I have a sister who’s much older than me and moved out when I was little, so I didn’t really have siblings growing up (this is why I’m so dismally unaware of many board games, ’cause there was no one to play them with).

    I wish the sorority system acted more like the frat system. I mean, if you’re required to move someone, you’ll pick somewhere you REALLY like and you’ll get to know people and stuff, ya know?

    Glad you found your brothers =)