As the former president of Zeta Tau Alpha at New York University, Nicole Gartside has really learned how to manage her time and energy. Being a sorority president is a huge responsibility, but Nicole takes care of business with grace and an upbeat attitude. While also being a student and writer, Nicole has worked on figuring out how to balance her schedule while also having a bit of fun. Since she has stepped down from her role as president, Nicole is now working as an editorial intern at Good Housekeeping magazine, has become a member of Order of Omega (an academic honor organization for Greeks), and will be gearing up for graduation in May! Read on to learn more about Nicole’s motivations, how she manages her time, and how she got involved with Greek life in the first place.
How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?
I think that when you’re young – especially in this day and age – there are so many different opportunities arising. I think seizing your youth is seizing those opportunities and not waiting until you’re older. I have a lot of friends in college back home who just want to party with friends and worry about real life later, and I guess in their mind they’re seizing their youth. However, in my mind, seizing your youth means taking advantage of the opportunities you get when you’re younger before you have actual responsibilities to deal with, such as paying bills.
What are you majoring in at New York University and how did you determine what to study?
I’m majoring in English and Journalism. I came into college not knowing what I wanted to do when I graduated, but I know I like writing and I’ve done interviewing and journalism, so I figured that was a good place to start. I wanted to do something general enough so I could go wherever the wind takes me.
Where have you interned and how did you go about securing those internships?
I’ve interned at a bunch of different small companies throughout the year. I interned at a local online publication in my hometown where I did profiles of people in my community. I got that internship through a friend of a friend who worked at the magazine.
I worked for an online magazine for women in college called Her Campus. A friend of mine had written for Her Campus so I applied online and sent in some clips from my blog. I actually had articles get picked up by The Huffington Post and U.S.A. Today, which was really cool.
I interned last semester at Seventeen Magazine. I was a beauty intern. I just Googled “How to apply for a Seventeen Magazine internship” and sent in my application in the mail, which no one does anymore.
This semester I’m taking off from interning so I have a little more time for school and Zeta stuff. I do part-time voice-over work for law school online classes, which is so fun.
How do you balance interning and being a college student?
For me it was a matter of prioritizing and being realistic of my time schedule. If I don’t have a lot to do I tend to be a procrastinator and I’ll take forever to do them. But when I was interning from 9am-6pm, I really had to factor that into my day and get my assignments done.
I also try not to over-commit myself to too many things. It’s more important to me to commit to a few things rather than commit to a lot of different things but not doing them very well because of lack of time. I lost my mind when I was doing too many things last semester, which is why this semester I took a step back. If you’re going to commit, commit all the way.
Where did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?
I studied abroad just in the summer in Madrid. I wanted to go because I wanted to finally work on my Spanish. I’ve been studying Spanish since fourth grade. I went to live with a host family. I thought studying abroad was worth it so I could study another culture, feel more comfortable with the language, and learn to be on my own. It was terrifying at first but I learned a lot and I’m really glad I went.
You are the president of NYU Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA). What does being president of a sorority mean and what do your presidential duties entail?
The actual title and duties are to make sure that everyone is satisfied with their overall Zeta experience and to make sure all the positions are doing their job. The better everyone else is doing their job, the less I actually have to do.
I have to be the liaison between our chapter and the fraternity sorority life community at New York University, the U.S. office, and the international office. I go to meetings with all the other Greek presidents and with the fraternity sorority life directors, and make sure we are meeting deadlines and filling out the proper paperwork. I oversee the positions on the executive council – there are nine other positions. I make sure they do their job, that events and recruitments are going well, and that everything is going according to plan. I oversee a lot and meet with many people. I probably send and receive 50 emails a day and 150 text messages a day about Zeta.
What was the process of rushing like and how did you choose which sororities to rush for?
My process was actually a little bit different because I was part of the Alpha pledge class so we founded the organization on campus. I really wanted to be in Greek life. I went to a bunch of different meetings on campus during welcome week and talked to a couple of different organizations.
I missed the deadline for recruitment my freshman year, but then Zeta recruited after formal recruitment. I went to check Zeta out and attended some of their events and I loved the idea of being able to start an organization from the ground up. It was nice to come in without any preconceived notions and reputation. It was hard because there were 90 people originally in our pledge class, but it was nice to be able to make the organization what we wanted it to be.
How do you become president of a sorority?
Since we’re a new chapter, we don’t do direct elections for four years, so the way that we do it is that we first elect a slate committee. Each grade elects a representative for their slate committee. You apply for a position and list your qualifications and interview, and then they pick who gets the positions. It’s a long process.
What does a day in your life look like?
This semester most of my classes are in the afternoons so I usually try to wake up at 9am or 10am and get my work done in the morning. I like to do my work first thing in the morning. Then I’ll try to get to the gym or go for a run. In the evenings I usually have meetings or a Zeta event, and then I’ll spend my night usually answering emails and finishing up paperwork. That’s my typical weekday.
What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
In high school I was on the cross country and I was captain my senior year. I was on the swim team, I was involved in honor choir, and I did the musical every year. I wasn’t always accepted because I didn’t want to conform to the norm and I didn’t really care what other people thought. Then I remember my senior year I was voted homecoming queen, and I remember thinking, “This is what happens when you don’t let people tell you who to be. This is what happens when you are yourself. People end up liking you.” It was a life affirming moment in high school.
Besides interning and being Zeta’s president, what other activities are you involved in?
I’m pretty busy with school and Zeta. I work part-time during the semester. I was in hall council my freshman year and was a representative my sophomore year. Now I am not as involved since my meetings conflict.
What has your experience been like going to college in New York City?
It was hard at first because it was totally different from where I grew up. I grew up in a tiny town in Colorado and I wanted something different for college. I came up here and didn’t know anybody. At first it was exciting like I was on vacation, but then I realized that this is where I would live for the next four years. It was a bigger transition process, but now I’m really glad I came here because I feel like I became very independent and that I could go anywhere else in the world and feel comfortable and figure out where I’m going. It’s been hectic and sometimes a little stressful, but in the end I’m glad I came.
What motivates you in your everyday life?
I have different motivations for different things. Especially for Zeta, my friends and sisters in the organizations motivate me. There are some days when I’m working all day doing Zeta stuff and I get exhausted, but then I realize I’m doing it for all of my friends, and that motivates me.
I’ve also always been a self-motivated person. I like to stay busy and keep going and think about my post-college life. I want to have enough experience to make money and support myself. I am past the living-with-my-parents stage in my life.
Who is your role model?
This was actually my entrance essay for college and I picked Walt Disney. I remember my first line being, “I am Walt Disney’s fairytale princess.” I think he’s a good example because I love the fantastical aspect of all of his work. Nothing was too much or too absurd to be a story. He was also a great storyteller and that’s one thing I would love to do, whether it’s fiction or journalism. He’s definitely one of my role models.
I’m also not someone who idolizes other people. I think everyone is flawed and I respect other people for what they’ve done, but I don’t necessarily idolize celebrities or anyone. I could try to live up to certain things they’ve done in their life, but I’d rather look up to the me that I can be.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Stop stressing so hard about everything in life. I tend to over-analyze and find the stress in everything. I would tell my 15-year-old-self to take chances. At that age I liked to take safe choices. I would tell myself that it is going to be okay eventually, but that it is going to get worse before it gets better.