Today, I thought it might be interesting to talk about what it's like attending a religious school like BYU - Idaho. I went to regular public school before college and then to Adams State, a public college, so I've got reference for comparison. I think the differences are kind of interesting!
Because BYU - I is a privately funded religious school, all the rules about separation of church from education no longer apply. When I first started classes, this really threw me off. To a certain extent, I had expected it. I'd known that almost everyone would be LDS, like me. I'd known about the Honor Code. I'd known about the required religion classes. What I hadn't expected was how deeply intertwined religion was with the structure of all the classes, the events, and the school itself. Even socially, Mormonism was common topic.
For the first week, or maybe even month, of school, this was confusing and kind of uncomfortable for me. I was taking six classes. One was a religion class, centered around the Book of Mormon. The others were all regular classes. But in Science Foundations, we started off by learning a) about how science and religion correlate and b) about LDS scientists. In American Foundations, we began with statements of scriptures and prophets relating to government, freedom of choice, human rights, etc. In literature class, the teacher began by saying that every piece of writing we read would, in some way, bring us closer to the Savior. In orchestra, we prayed every day to bring the Holy Spirit through our playing.
In Creative Writing, the teacher said that we'd be reading some questionable content, that we needed to put our adult panties on, and also that we wouldn't be praying in class because praying all the time makes it rote. Immediately, the girl behind me asked him, "Are you even a member of the Church?"
(Yes, he was. You have to be to teach at a BYU school.)
This continued throughout the year. For someone who had spent fourteen years in public schools, where religion is kind of a taboo topic, it was a very strange experience. I winced every time someone brought religion up, because I was just waiting for the name-calling to start. But it never happened. Mormonism? Yeah, man. That's the attitude at this school. The extent to which it made for casual conversation surprised me. The way people could just talk about religion, without worry, seemed revolutionary. I saw them praying all the time. Words and ideas that outside the Church wouldn't have made any sense were commonly understood. It was also assumed that everyone attended devotional (a religious-themed talk) every Tuesday. I never wanted to do that, mainly because of the crowds, but I got into listening to it online.
There was also a huge "happy news!" culture. Every week, someone in one of my classes would announce a) a pregnancy, b) an engagement, or c) a mission call. There were babies everywhere. I would not want to go to school pregnant, personally, but it's normal at BYU - Idaho. The first chair cellist in orchestra was so pregnant at the time of our concert we were worried she might go into labor onstage.
Once the adjustment period for all this passed, I realized that I actually really loved it.
It felt great being able to talk about what I believe without fear. It was a whole different kind of free discourse. Some people would think that being in a religious school would limit discussion, thought, and cultural growth, but I actually had a lot more opportunity to develop as a person here than I had elsewhere. I gained more respect for all kinds of religions and for education in general. I enjoyed being able to talk to my Catholic friends online and hear their own thoughts about religion, something I felt more comfortable doing because of the environment I was in every day. School lessons had more meaning with the deeper spiritual aspect added to them. Regular education also has great value, of course, but let's be honest, sometimes it gets boring and hard to find the motivation for. The spiritual application made it all more relevant and important for me. I felt like I was actually accomplishing things that helped me grow as a person.
Naturally, socializing was also little easier because everyone had the same general standards and similar long-term goals. I didn't have to feel awkward about my beliefs because everyone got it, and the dating scene, in a lot of ways, was more relaxed. (In other ways, it was a lot worse, but hey, I didn't really have time/energy for that this past semester anyway.)
In summary, being at a religious school is very different from being at public school, but it's made me happy so far. I know BYU - Idaho is where I belong. It feels right in a way my last college never quite did. While this style of education wouldn't work for everyone, it works for me. So if you're considering a religious school, I hope my thoughts here will help you figure out what the right decision is for you!
Why I Hate James Pat...
The Lesser Evil: Femi...
PTSD and The Hunge...
Guest Post: 5 Fandom...
My Mayo Clinic Experi...
My 25 Most Favorite S...