Gay marriage is wrong, abortions are wrong, and the church and tradition are always right. This was how I was raised in small-town Indiana for the first eighteen years of my life. Until college, I couldn’t imagine a world where people weren’t Christian or Catholic. Friends’ parents and peers talked about Islamics and Muslims like they all fit into an extremist categorical box tied with a bow.
I learned and believed that abortions under all circumstances were wrong and intolerable. I believed that man was intended to marry woman and there were no deviations or exceptions.
My first serious boyfriend was so intriguing to me because he was covered in tattoos and full of libertarian ideals I had never heard. He told me I was closed minded. He told me I only believed what my family believed. He told me I didn’t have a voice or opinion of my own.
Well, despite how blunt, he was right.
People joke that college changes people and makes them more liberal and experimental. Not only did college change and shape my own opinions and beliefs, but more than anything, experiencing the world did.
When you go off to college and leave your comfortable and familiar nest, you realize people believe different things. I couldn’t believe a close friend of mine was an atheist. I couldn’t believe a mutual friend was openly gay. But the more I was exposed to these things – the more understanding I became.
Studying abroad was an eye-opener as well. For the first time, I was living in a foreign country as a minority. There’s something liberating and humbling about experiencing being a minority for the first time. The stares, the whispers, the stereotypes were frequent. I was surrounded by people who didn’t share my beliefs and who didn’t share my culture.
Yes, college is important in order to further your education and strive for a better life. Yes, leaving your hometown and starting over is important for growth. But in my opinion, nothing is more important than finding, defending, and experiencing your own beliefs and finding your voice.
The world is full of all kinds of people, ideals, opinions, and beliefs. Beliefs and opinions that expand far beyond your small town spoon-fed knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong with being more conservative, old-fashioned, or even somewhat close-minded. However, it’s important to experience things outside of your comfort zone to truly know if your beliefs are your beliefs, or if they’re simply all you know.
How can you defend or argue a point if you’ve never experienced it? Being surrounded by what you’re afraid of is crucial to growth and maybe acceptance.
Take the opportunity to emerge yourself in a foreign situation or even a foreign mindset.
Real world experience may change you like it did for me.
Image via anna schultz
Breaking Away From Small Town Values