Going to university changed my life dramatically. I was immersed in a completely new environment. Looking back, I think It was one of the biggest cultural shifts in my life: new stresses of professional expectations and a heavy workload. But what changed most were my new social opportunities on campus and having greater freedom. I realize now the impact my friends (and the activities we did on campus) made on my life.
I was amazed, intimidated and confused my first weeks of university by the diversity of beliefs and lifestyles on campus. I found most people didn’t share my life experience. It caused me to be insecure about my beliefs. My beliefs were like putty in the hands of whoever could help me navigate through the diversity. Looking back now I realize how much of my university experience was determined by the people and groups I associated with. It not only shaped my time at university but also my life trajectory.
More than just shaping my university experience it was shaping my way of viewing the world and living in it. I was role-playing my future life at university: the way I interacted, disagreed with others, forgave, negotiated, formed my views of sexuality, dealt with conflict, organized myself, and chose my values. My associations with others shaped me, as I chose who I would emulate.
There are so many diverse beliefs and lifestyles on display at university. How are they shaping you?
Observe yourself in your new school environment. Are you doing things now because of the people you are associating with that you would not have done previously? Just to fit in? Our desire for belonging may prompt us to do things that go against our beliefs.
Look at the people that you associate with. Do you want to become the people around you? Do you want to emulate their lives? Is that the direction you want your life to go in?
Don’t get me wrong, you can still respect, interact with and grant tolerance to those who oppose your views. They have freedom to disagree with you. But for the values and qualities you admire…do you have close friends who share these values and encourage you to take them forward?
I learned something critical at university. I become my friends around me.