I attend a Baptist University. Baylor University is an "unapologetically Christian" university, and since I am still trying to find myself in terms of whether or not I choose to participate in organized religion, Baylor was a good choice for me. However, in only one week of classes, I have found that most people here — students and faculty alike — share certain demographics. Being white with blonde hair is one demographic that I belong to, but the other, the "Christian Mindset," is one that I do not belong to. Not being a part of this mindset is borderline damaging to not only other's opinions of me but my opinion of them.
Most of my classes are discussion based, which is a difficult way to run a class. Oftentimes, you have people who either "all agree" or who are just not willing to speak up and contribute to the discussion. Either way, there are too many awkward pauses while the professor desperately searches for someone to make eye contact so they have an excuse to call on them. On the flip side, class debates can get violent, especially if they're about religion, which is my hardest class at the moment.
Baylor expects everyone to have a knowledge of the scriptures when they walk in the door. In theory, one could learn as they go (as classes are supposed to work) but since the course is designed around this expectation, one semester is far too short to try to understand the values and mindsets of Christianity at the most basic level.
It's frustrating. I often feel inadequate compared to my religious classmates, and I have felt this constant pressure to prove myself and to prove that I belong here. I feel stupid for not going on and not understanding any of the readings, and I feel especially stupid for asking the seemingly obvious questions in class or having a perspective that no one else in the class agrees with.
While alienating, I feel that my presence at Baylor is a learning experience for both me and my classmates. It's OK to have a differing opinion than those around you, especially when it comes to religion. If you end up in a situation like I am, understand that the people around you need to be exposed to more viewpoints than the ones they grew up with, and you need to see how religion at its core functions — a lesson I'm still trying to find the answer to.
This doesn't just go for religion either. That's just my personal experience. This goes with any topic of discussion that you may find hard to talk about. Speak your mind. It's OK to be wrong, and it's OK to change your mind. You're allowed to contribute to the conversation, even if no one agrees with you. You don't have to be agreeable to be smart, or kind, or responsible. You need to be you.