What I’ve learned being conservative on a liberal campus
‘I immediately clung more to my roots’
Although “liberal college campus” may be considered redundant these days, my big-city university is a far cry from my suburban hometown in more ways than one. Superficially, I complained mostly about how the whole school year is spent mostly below freezing, the pace of living was too quick for my liking and how most people seemed to live life with permanent social blinders.
However, the most challenging difference was overcoming the convergent political atmosphere. Imaginably, many college kids have gone through or are bound to go through a similar experience. Here’s what I’ve learned as a conservative in my liberal environment.
I’m more conservative than I thought
It’s true when people say you “find yourself in college.” As high schoolers, politics are usually something we’re exposed to through our living room television, or now, on various social media websites in forms of hashtags and memes.
I was no exception. Fox was usually the news source of choice and I usually saw everyone’s political views plastered on my Facebook feed from time to time. I felt strongly about some issues, but never too strongly to really speak out about it. My relatives and friends jokingly (but seriously) would remind me: “OK Jurie, you better not be a Democrat when you come back on Christmas break!”
In fact, the exact opposite happened. I clung more to my roots. I came to this realization that I was significantly more right-winged the first week I moved into my dorm when I got into a heated argument with a hall-mate about the viability of socialism in America. Our RA stepped in to cool it down, but it irked me for a while to know that anyone actually felt this way.
A year later, she and I became sorority sisters.
One of my first classes I ever took at Penn was a 200-person Communications lecture. The professor, a funny and intriguing woman, opened class one day by telling us a story on how she started one of her social studies.
“I was so excited to start this study and I went to an old friend for advice on what to do first…he told me, ‘OK, first you’re going to have to interview 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Before he could finish I said, ‘Wait…I don’t even KNOW three Republicans!”
The class erupted with laugher. I chuckled along at the time but I felt like a complete outsider. I realized I now lived in a place in which many people believe that in order to be conservative, you have to fit the mold of an old, extremely rich, bigoted white man.
As a young, middle-class, open-minded, Filipino American female, I was understandably frustrated. I was afraid to voice my opinions on certain matters because I felt the majority of people would judge and disassociate, but surprisingly I came across and befriended many classmates with shared similar views in the same predicament as me.
I had many conversations with conservatives, but they were conservative in different ways. Whether it was fiscally, socially, or both, they all made me feel more comfortable with sharing and discussing politics with others. Through this, I developed a stronger sense of where I stand on the spectrum and also became so interested in exploring the depths of politics that I chose to major in Political Science.
Do not limit yourself to like-minded friendships
Although I have encountered some resistant judgment from others, some of the greatest friendships I have made in college are with people who do not share the same ideology as me. Those who choose not to get to know you merely past your political views probably weren’t worth your friendship anyway. The way you treat others and who you are as a human being does not have to correlate with your view on politics.
Since the Democratic National Convention is in Philadelphia this year, some of my sorority sisters have earned internships over the summer to work it, another sister started an organization called “Penn For Hillary” that has a large following, and although we don’t share the same opinions on each issue, I’m very proud of their leadership and how passionate they are in what they believe in, just as I am. It reflected so well that this year we won an award at Nationals for having so many leaders in our specific chapter.
The true meaning of “tolerance”
The balance of being proud of your views while keeping an open mind to other opinions is the true essence of “tolerance.” By stepping outside of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to other views, you have the opportunity to learn, discuss, persuade and sharpen your own views. Many people are never able to grow in this way because they continue to reinforce their views within their comfortability.
Some of my favorite late night conversations have been with friends openly and honestly discussing our different views. I’ve learned political debates do not always have to be arguments that yield a “winner” and that respect is a two-way street.
I encourage Conservatives, Liberals and everyone in between to allow themselves to develop tolerance for each other for the sake of our nation.