Keep an open mind this semester

Keep an Open Mind/ Two floating heads arguing

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo / The Cougar

One of the best things about being a Coog is getting to interact with a diverse student body. With students hailing from over 137 countries, you’re likely to run into ideas and traditions from nearly every culture you can think of. 

While interacting with students from other backgrounds can be thrilling, it can also be challenging. You might experience ideas that might make you uncomfortable or clash with the ideals you were raised with. It can be scary at first, but leaning into that discomfort is how people grow. As you approach these interactions, consider asking why someone believes something rather than sticking with your gut reaction. 

Your personal beliefs might not change, but you may just gain a newfound appreciation for how that person sees life. Every person’s life experience is different, and assuming you understand how everything works is a great way to shut out some potentially beautiful interactions.

Having an open mind goes beyond just trying the occasional new food. In some cases, it means challenging deeply held religious or political beliefs. 

For many, these beliefs are held so strongly that challenging them can seem like losing a part of who you are. Ethics, traditions and beliefs are frequently tied to strong memories or bonds with family. Especially in an unfamiliar environment, it can be tempting to double down.

But at its core, college is about learning, and that includes learning about other people. For many students, especially those from less diverse communities, this might be their first time being exposed to deeply impactful ideas. 

And in the process of learning about other people, you might find you end up learning a lot about yourself too. Some college students end up finding whole new career paths, hobbies and even spiritual ideas.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, sticking to the same ideas and people you’re familiar with can end up creating an echo chamber. Ideas that are never truly challenged can end up becoming flimsy and repetitive. 

Sometimes this can be as tame as only having friends that like the same music, but echo chambers can end up doing a lot of harm. For example, completely failing to engage with people from different political ideologies can create deep rifts between groups. 

Keeping an open mind is important for students of all political backgrounds, even at a mostly liberal university. Everyone holds their beliefs for a reason, and sometimes finding out why they hold that belief can make you see someone in a more human light. 

This doesn’t mean you have to engage with people that are actively hostile or cause you emotional distress, of course. But as you head into a new year, think about your background. Would your beliefs be the same if you were raised in a different environment?

Regardless of what environment you were raised in, college is one of the last chances you may have in life to engage with so many different ideas. 

As you enter the workforce, you’re likely to increasingly find yourself surrounded by people extremely similar to you. Trying out new things can be difficult, as you have to put more time and energy into locating unique people to engage with. 

So don’t waste these four years. This is your opportunity to see the great diversity of experiences that make being human so beautiful. 

Most people are proud of where they come from and are more than willing to tell you about it if you ask politely and respectfully. Even if the Texas legislature doesn’t want you to, you should think about taking some time this semester to really celebrate diversity.

Malachi Spence Key is a journalism senior who can be reached at
[email protected]

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