To freshmen, it may seem cliché and exaggerated when college is described as “the best years of your life” or “a place to define yourself.”
But the more time I spent in my small, Midwestern hometown for the summer before my sophomore year, the more I realized how the truth in those descriptions.
A person’s upbringing influences his or her perspective on the world in countless ways. Often times, you don’t realize it until you leave the comfort of your home and your parents’ watchful eyes. Sure, when you first get to college you think you know what you believe and no one will ever change that. How could they?
Your beliefs have been engrained into you since the day you were born, and they grew stronger with every Sunday morning and Wednesday night spent in church. Nothing can shake you. You are strong and your views will withstand the questions posed by anyone who may come your way: professors, advisors, peers.
Ain’t nobody swaying your opinions.
And then something strange happens. You get in deep discussions with these people about important issues like gay marriage and minimum wage and immigration.
Some of it you were prepared for, but most of it you weren’t. Those against you seem to have convincing arguments. Anything you contend they hit right back into your court.
What if you can’t win? What if there is no right or wrong answer? There are only opinions and minds trying to make sense of it all.
So, hesitantly, you consider what you’ve been taught since childhood. In middle school and high school, the youth pastor practically handed you scripts for when people questioned your views. No, literally, sometimes he gave you handouts with Bible verses to support your arguments.
Now you’re three hours away from home and on your own. You’ve never taken the time to think about these kinds of issues by yourself. Instead, you’ve been force-fed answers and beliefs because that’s all you’ve ever known.
It feels weird, thinking for yourself. It’s like learning how to talk again, finding your voice. Of course you’ve made your own decisions before, but nothing quite on this caliber. Let your thoughts flow from your fingers on a keyboard or from the pen to the paper or from your mouth into the air, however you need to express them.
That’s when the freedom starts. You don’t have to make up your mind right then and there exactly how you feel about a certain subject, but you have a start. College provides the amazing gift of an abundance of minds around you to challenge your thoughts and start the process all over again. Who said it’s wrong to challenge yourself? It’s healthy for you. If you never challenge your beliefs, how do you know that you know what you believe in the first place?
College cultivates learning,That’s its purpose. But the learning isn’t confined to your career. The learning invades every aspect of your life, but you don’t realize it until you get there. Maybe college doesn’t change what you believe, but rather solidifies it by forcing you to make your own discoveries. It doesn’t have to change who you are as a person, but don’t be afraid to let it.