“They let Penn students have tattoos?” My grandfather asked incredulously upon seeing a third tattoo bloom on my arm. Unlike him, I don't believe that tattoos indicate diminished intelligence, but that’s just one of the many things we don’t see eye to eye on. My father’s T-shirt, emblazoned with the words “Second Amendment Established 1791,” passed my grandfather’s standards however, earning a sneer from me.
My nose ring, tattoos, and overall belief that women should be able to choose what goes on their bodies are surface-level manifestations of the stark political differences that run like raging rivers between myself and half of my family. College has only enhanced these differences in beliefs, which is why I urge each first-year student who is possibly moving away from home for the first time to not shy away from the new perspectives that a college campus gifts them. Though my political beliefs are highly aligned with those of my sister, who studies 3,000 miles away from me, they diverged even further from most of my family’s when I went away to college. Penn’s campus, and many others like it, are often criticized for being liberal bubbles that stifle true dichotomous discourse. I would argue that this is true only to the extent that many Penn students refuse to entertain perspectives that perpetuate ideas of minority inferiority. When it comes to other topics of discussion, such as immigration policy and tax reform, there is greater diversity.
This broadening of political dialogue is a blessing. To imbibe the frame of reference of other students by listening to their personal histories is one way of accessing a broader level of understanding. Involving yourself in student groups more closely affiliated with political activism or parties is yet another step. I think it is infinitely important for first year students to listen to ideas different from what they've heard from their families and in their hometowns when they come to college, in order to more fully develop their own ideas and beliefs. Growing up in Florida, I was constantly surrounded by people whose political ideologies, religion, and family histories were vastly different than my own.
I am grateful to the city of Philadelphia for providing such a bustling and rich social environment from which I've learned more about my own politics as well as the politics of those I’ve always opposed. As first-years leave their hometowns, many are being confronted with new political ideologies for the first time. This is one of the aspects of college that enriches your life with important learning outside the classroom.
Young kids often regurgitate what their parents or guardians believe as they grow into their own political person, and college is an integral time to develop as an individually political person. I’m not advocating for an immediate opposition to everything you’ve known and grown up with, but if you’ve never been exposed to ideas prior to college due to your upbringing or geographical boundaries, then college is the best time to open your mind. College has amplified my already staunch political views, and placed me even farther away from my father’s family on most political spectrums, but this isn’t something to fear. This is a part of growing up in America today, where advocacy and action are necessary. But you need information first.
Penn’s campus is brimming with information when it comes to politics, as well as many political student groups that provide contemporaneous sources that you haven’t grown up with. I love discussing policy with my mom, because we’re normally batting for the same team, but discussions in college with people of all backgrounds and all perspectives is where I can learn the most about things I haven’t had access to before.
It’s okay to stray from your norm; in fact, I encourage gathering all the information you can in order to be the most informed political entity you can be. If this differentiates you from your family, then at least it’s a choice you made, and not a blind faith due to upbringing.
Our country can’t afford blind faith anymore. College students, with all our resources and opportunity for discussion, must be pioneers when it comes to combating ignorance with knowledge. Create your own political agenda, instead of following your family’s.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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