As I write this post I am watching the BYU vs. Gonzaga game in the NCAA tournament. BYU has a great team led by Jimmer Fredette who is an amazing player. His skill sets are so solid across the board including three point shots that are way outside. The thing that is most impressive is he makes every other player better on his team. I don’t see how you can help but get excited when watching someone who is so good at what they do.
Anyway, watching the game made me wax nostalgic of my BYU years (when I was there the basketball team was awful. It was the volleyball and dance teams that were winning national championships). I went to Brigham Young University (or BYU) from 1999 to 2002. I know many people idolize high school but for me it is my college years that stand out.
BYU is a very special school. It is owned by my church- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it has strict standards for all who wish to attend. (Actually its the same standards asked of all the youth of the church). Each student must commit to an honor code that demands honesty, character, integrity and prohibits alcohol, smoking, coffee, tea, premarital sex among other things.
Some are critical of these high standards, but I believe strongly they provide a sanctuary for people who believe the same things- a space where learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ can be combined with secular study in a way that is not available anywhere else in the world. Aside from the other BYU schools, there is no other place where a Mormon can express their faith in the way they can at BYU.
It still gives me a thrill when I attend a play at BYU and there is a prayer before the game. I fondly remember sitting in science class and singing a hymn with my fellow students or asking questions about my faith to my professors (of any class). BYU is always criticized for ‘limiting academic freedom’ but I believe I was more free there than I could have been at any school. As I said, nowhere else could my faith flourish along with my knowledge.
When I arrived at BYU I was SO excited and rarely in life do experiences live up to high expectations but it did not disappoint (I was so anxious when opening my acceptance letter that I went into another room and upon reading ‘we are pleased…’ I started screaming and jumping up and down).
I know its a cliche but I really feel like I found my voice there. Within my first semester I decided on political science and with this major I learned how to defend my point of view and how to understand others. I also studied the philosophies of the past which have led to the contemporary lifestyles and ideas. Its hard to over state the impact these classes had on me. Even now, nearly 10 years later I still remember individual lectures and assignments.
The motto of BYU is ‘Enter to Learn, Go forth to Serve’ (Its on a big plaque at the entrance so its hard to miss!). I hope I have lived up to this challenge. If you had asked me at 22 what I wanted to do I might have listed some great and lofty goals. Perhaps I may have been disappointed with my current simple life?
Its hard to say, but I believe I have taken all the opportunities I can to continue to learn and grow. I am constantly trying to read, study, analyze, pray and vocalize my opinions to and about the world. (Hopefully you have seen this as you have read my blog!). Who knows what I would be like without BYU, but I don’t think my life could possibly be the same without such a fortifying experience.
Some people go to BYU (or any other college for that matter) and breeze through taking the ‘easy classes’ and not really learning- not changing. Others nitpick every flaw, and do nothing but complain (I was so sick of hearing ‘there’s nothing to do in Provo. Please! There is plenty to do. You should see the list of activity ideas I came up with of things to do- its like 6 pages long!). Such whining was not my style. I always figured if I was going to do something I would do it well, and so I immersed myself in the BYU experience.
I went to activities, followed sports, found teachers and subjects I was passionate about, and even attended a dance or two (shocking I know). I left BYU with no regrets (and unlike most college experience I can remember the fun I had!). The truth is if you decide you are going to have an awesome experience you probably will. I certainly did.
The only thing I wish I had done is go on a study abroad but I was having too much fun at school to take time off. I also could have spent more time but I loved school and had no desire to go home for the summer. If I was given the opportunity to go back and get more schooling I’d do it in a heartbeat (although I am sure it wouldn’t be the same. You can never really go back to special experiences!).
I know it sounds cheesy but I walk on BYU campus and still feel like it is sacred grounds. Doesn’t everyone have places like that which help define their life? Perhaps its the church you get married in or the first home you buy, but for me one of those places will always be BYU. I love it! I got a great education and it was a happy time of growth and discovery. In some ways I wish I could go back and live that time again. Go cougars! (They just won the game by like 2o points! Wahoo! Proof you can uphold your standards and still win games…)