What It’s Like to be a Mennonite in College-ABC Day 10



I think sometimes people imagine that a Mennonite going to a secular college is like a defenseless Little Red Riding Hood walking into the clutches of the Big Bad Wolf. It never really felt that way for me though, because I knew what it was that I believed and I’d decided that I would stick with those beliefs no matter what. In all honesty, being a Mennonite in secular college is more like Red Riding Hood walking through the forest with an ax in her hand. The wolf might attack, but she has what she needs to defend herself.

Going to a non-Christian college after growing up Mennonite felt like a shock at first, because I was suddenly surrounded by people who didn’t believe the same things that I did. Even though no one ever challenged my beliefs (or made me write on a paper that God is dead…that would never actually happen imho), I could still tell that a majority of the people around me had different values and goals that I had.

I’ve heard people point to this as a reason that you shouldn’t send your kids to college, saying that it’ll make them lose their faith. It always annoys me when I hear that, because it did the exact opposite for me. When I was surrounded by people with different beliefs, I was forced to either reject my faith or commit to it whole-heartedly. I could no longer just go with what the people around me were doing, I had to choose God for myself. When I did this, my faith grew so much stronger.

Along with this idea, going to college and being constantly surrounded by non-Christians made going to church feel much more important. I learned to value being with believers and having the opportunity to worship the Lord with other people.

Being in college also helps me to appreciate my heritage. The one day in an education class a story was brought up about a kid who had divorced parents, and how switching between them affected their behavior at school. At my table, people started talking about how their parents had divorced, and what their parents’ systems were for spending time with them. As the people at my table talked I realized that I was the only one whose parents were still together. At that point in really struck me how lucky I was that I grew up in a home that had such a strong emphasis on family.

One of the struggles of being a Mennonite in college is that it was hard to find people who get what my life is like. My friends at school don’t get the Mennonite aspect of things, and my Mennonite friends don’t get what it’s like to be in college. Thankfully I have siblings who have also chosen to go to college and understand the dual perspective on life.

It can also be hard because my friends are a different stage in life than I am. They are working consistently and saving up for international trips, and I am taking classes and funneling all my money into that. I end up sitting and watching and feeling like my life is so boring compared to theirs.

Honestly though, I love college. I love learning new things, and being around people who are also there to learn. I love that it gives me new perspectives on life and helps me appreciate how I was raised. Going to college has been so good for me. It’s helped me to find who I am and what I believe, and without it I don’t believe I would be the person I am today.


8 thoughts on “What It’s Like to be a Mennonite in College-ABC Day 10

  1. Wow Emily, you have done a great job expressing this. Some of our children have graduated from college as well, and could relate to how things are perceived different in the “mennonite world”

  2. You are beyond smart. You are a very wise young woman with a bright future! Go, get’em, girl!

  3. As a Mennonite student who attended and graduated from a State University, I totally agree with your Paragraph 3 and portions of Paragraph 6.

  4. It has been about 10 years since I walked in those shoes. Your article resonated well with me. I was the only Mennonite within about 40 miles of my college, so I was kinda a “novelty” in the community. When I went, I prayed for spiritual support within that community, and God provided me with what became a spiritual family for me, among some Baptist friends I learned to know and love. While I am cautious about recommending the exact path I took to my education, that season of my life anchored some of the “corner posts” of my faith in God’s faithfulness. I still look back and cling to, “If God provided for me in those ways to meet those particular needs in my life and heart at that time, then He will be faithful in meeting the needs of my life and heart in ____ situation.”

    I was also thankful for a few friends from each of my different worlds who ventured across the line, and at least caught a few glimpses of the other side of my world; it helped me feel like a complete person, instead of completely split between two completely different worlds.

    Blessings to you… and be faithful!

  5. I worked a job with nonbelievers who did drugs, were promiscuous and appeared to have a great time doing all that. I couldn’t agree more with your conclusions. It’s exactly how I felt…..I’m so grateful I got to work with them! God gave me a deep compassion for the lost….suddenly I saw them as people just like me, instead of scary faraway heathens that I used to. God opened my eyes to whaI find it easy to relate to people much different from me now and I credit my teenage job with teaching me that.

  6. Good stuff. 🙂 In my first semester of college I probably would have felt more like Little Red Riding Hood, but now I feel more like the third little pig. 🙂 Grateful for a strong house, but still at times scared that the wolf will come down the chimney. I could also resonate with the 6th paragraph, where people on both sides find it hard to understand what you’re life really is like.

  7. Spot on. As a Mennonite college grad I identify with your experiences. I have found that maintaining perspective was core for me in both feeling safe and connecting with people who do not understand my world. I found that if I look at every thing through a God centered filter I could consistently leave humanistic classes worshiping God for His amazing works.

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