I was recently having a conversation with a friend who attends a huge state school. For the sake of this article, we’ll call her Hannah. Hannah was describing to me what life is like at a public state school. This included stories of hard schoolwork, visits to Insomnia Cookies, Aspen Coffee Co., parties, and getting drunk on weeknights. She explained to me that her school doesn’t have a cafeteria or any type of place where the whole student body is in one place together and that she doesn’t know many people outside of her sorority and told me wild stories of tailgating before football games. When I told her about my differing college experience, she said something along the lines of JBU not being “real life.” I was confused by this. She made me feel as if my college experience was inferior to hers simply because I chose to go to a small Christian college. Sure, JBU may not be a perfect painting of what the world will look like after college. But is any higher education, even public college, “real life?” I think not.
My conversation with Hannah got me wondering: what about my college experience has been so different from hers? Just because I attend a small school doesn’t mean that I have missed out on opportunities or have had less of an experience. She may have Aspen Coffee, but I have Pour Jon’s. She may get to attend state football games, but I get to participate in JBU’s Toilet Paper Game. I would argue that, in many ways, my college experience is actually better. I know my professors personally, and I know well that they care about me and want me to be successful. They make themselves available to grab meals with me—and yes, we discuss class—but we also discuss life and faith. I know my fellow classmates better than she ever will. When I walk into the caf during lunch time, I know without a doubt that there will be at least one person in the room that I know well. Hannah, on the other hand, has classes full of 200 students. The teachers come to class, they teach, and they leave. Hannah knows few people outside of her sorority. Her friendships are important and meaningful, but they are few and far between. When she walks into the student union, she orders her food and leaves. She does not spend time in genuine community with those around her during mealtimes. At the end of the day, it’s not about whose college experience is better. It’s not about better. Because what it really comes down to is that neither of us is experiencing real life; college isn’t meant to be real life.
All colleges occupy bubbles. Regardless of if the school is a huge public school, a small private school, a secular university, or a religious one, college is simply not real life. It is important to note that college isn’t meant to be real life. College is for living in a safe place where you can grow and develop. These years are meant to lay down a solid, lasting foundation on which students can build the rest of their lives. As college students at both private and public universities, we live with many luxuries that we won’t have in the real world. In college, we are given scholarships to pay for our education. Those that do not receive scholarships are able to postpone their loans for four years, and some of these loans are interest-free. In the real world, this is unheard-of; postponing loans is a luxury many adults wish they had. We—in college—are served our meals daily. We don’t have to prepare any food for ourselves if we don’t wish to. We are even saved the bother of washing our own dishes! College is our full-time job. Most of us are not expected to work forty hours a week; we are expected to attend classes and soak in knowledge. The majority of us don’t pay for Internet, water, electricity, or even toilet paper. We are taken care of in our own little bubbles.
We get a choice about what type of bubble we wish to live in. There are certainly some bubbles that are better than others, especially for young adults. As a Christian, I believe it is important that we choose a bubble that is best suited to our beliefs and values, especially as we grow and become more familiar with what we believe. If we are to be struck with doubt, let it be in a place that will encourage and lift us up. Let it be in a place filled with people that will lead as Christ led. JBU, in my opinion, is an excellent example of the type of bubble young Christians should be choosing. For those of us who are believers, it’s not about choosing JBU—it’s about choosing the best place to develop our faith. It’s about choosing the place that will best help us become more like Christ. So, when you are looking for colleges, or even when you are attending one, I encourage you to ask yourself how your bubble impacts who you are.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not claim to reflect the opinions or views of the Defendant or its staff members.