Connecting to Family and Religion While in College – Guest post from Maria Carrillo
“With the coming of fall semester only a few weeks away comes the beginning of a new college. Living away from their parents, already living out of the home, or planning to commute, college students will be embarking on an adventure and developing what I call their own student identities. Part of their identity will be reflected in how they dress, activities they participate in, and perhaps most importantly what they choose as a major and field of study. Despite their age, sex, or even cultural background, all will be exposed to new ideas, ways of thinking, and topics that may put into perspective or question their current beliefs. Despite their course of study and years it may take to finish, a degree students will learn to become critical thinkers and analyze educational information presented to them. How does the process of critical analysis of information spill into their personal lives and analysis of their own personal beliefs?
Through a series of ethnographic interviews conducted as part of my thesis project, I found that family can be a key player that aids in the reinforcement of culture and spirituality during students college years and a silent force that brings students back to some of their core beliefs years after graduating. I also found that the skills of critical analysis that students develop in college, for analyzing research and information, are not always applied to their life. I believe this is an example of the process of compartmentalizing that permits students to develop new identities during and after college.
While not the case across the board, students tend to put personal beliefs, specifically religious, spiritual beliefs on the “back burner” of their thoughts while in college. The view their family has of them is still important to them even while pursuing their own desires. It is important that as individuals they can develop an individual identity while still maintaining some connection to their family and culture. When asked about their current religious beliefs students would almost automatically refer to “how they were raised,” their family’s beliefs, and how despite their lack of time, they maintained these relationships. When engaged in discussions about their religious and spiritual beliefs students will often bring up ideas of family, time, and critical analysis. Perhaps even more interesting is the question of whether or not individuals revert back to beliefs or adapt changes post higher education.
The college years are typically marked by the ability an individual has to explore their identity without large outside influence. They may lack a comfort with the idea of having to defend their beliefs. As they become increasingly exposed to new ideas in college, students realize that their beliefs are not the only ones out there. This realization could be part of what prompts students to hold back and listen to others. They realize they are no longer in their home community and now have to pass to form part of a larger community where everyone feels differently. I believe that can be said about the student experience at any age and exploring religious and spiritual beliefs is one part of that.”