As a transfer student from a small town about an hour and a half from here, moving to Troy is both comforting because the small-town lifestyle is very familiar to me and nerve-racking because my group of friends is in this town, which consists of my two dogs and the very few people whom I know who reside here.
We all have beliefs, standards and morals that we value and want to stand by. While my views are of a Southern Methodist turned non-denominational, others have different views. There is a diverse range of cultural values due to the large number of national and international students on campus.
Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Paganism are just a few of the different religions that are practiced here on our campus. We have so much diversity within our student body, but some students do not feel comfortable practicing their beliefs publicly.
A co-worker recently opened up to me about her beliefs. She practices Paganism, which is something that was unfamiliar to me. She didn’t want me to tell anyone because previous friends judged her and tried to push their own beliefs to change her; they thought she was unfit.
After a lot of thought and research, I realized that though we believed in different ideas, there is no reason that our friendship should end due to our individual beliefs.
Rather, our mutual respect for one another and what we do believe should allow us to be more educated about not only one another but others whom we may encounter.
Our nation has come so far in its freedom of what we can and cannot believe, so why should a 21-year-old college student feel ashamed of what she believes?
This university has thousands of students with many different cultural backgrounds from all over the world who come to this one tiny town in south Alabama. Daily, we are exposed to newness, strange ideas and the possibility of meeting someone who can influence you to change your mind about a certain culture that you may not fully understand.
This cannot happen unless everyone feels completely comfortable in who she and what she believes.
With the first few days of class behind us, we take the opportunity to interact with the thousands of new students on campus. A student can turn around and make friends with the foreign exchange student from China who may have questions for him or her about living in Alabama and being from America. He or she can reach out to others and allow unspoken ideas to then be heard.
We have the chance to change the way others view themselves and to grow as both individuals and as a university. Students should feel comfortable no matter what they believe or practice, and we need to break this silence of rejection and judgment. We need to allow cultural diversity to overwhelm this small Alabama community.