Saturday, May 3, 2014

Christian University: The Things I Took For Granted

With graduation season upon us, and with me in my last year of college, I've been reflecting over my college experiences. It's been a series of ups and downs, on campus, commuting, single, married, private, public, community, etc., leaving me at now having attended 4 colleges; Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Kent State University, Lorain County Community College, and now Cleveland State University, where I am currently attending. Each college I've attended has given me a variety of college experiences, making me a well-rounded college student.

I never knew I was going to end up going to so many schools. At the beginning of the summer of 2009, I had just graduated and had not decided on a college yet. I loved Kent State University, and had already looked into the college ministries on campus and surrounding churches, but I felt like I'd get lost in the crowd and be around a lot of things that just weren't "me". I knew that my faith was plenty strong enough to withstand peer pressure and get involved in campus ministries (in high school I was known to be an outspoken Christian, so no worries there!), but would I thrive academically in such a big place? For me, probably not. I was finding myself asking the question that every Christian senior in high school was asking themselves, "Should I go to a Christian college?". I knew for sure that my majors would in psychology and sociology, and because a good friend of mine told me about their great programs, I visited MVNU. My family and I packed up the car and took a college visit; we all fell in LOVE with MVNU and were all so excited for me to potentially go there! We actually asked the admissions office if they knew the status of my application, they checked, and I'd been accepted! I felt so at peace after that visit, I knew it was the place for me.

MVNU was my favorite college, hands down. I stopped attending there when I got married for practical reasons; we would have been taking out more and more loans for an expensive private education and there wasn't a lot of job opportunities for Cory as a new Bible college graduate in the Mount Vernon area because it's a small town. I would've gone back in a heartbeat if we had more money because my experience there was so awesome. God has taken me through all my colleges I think to give me a look at the culture around me so I cannot regret the time I have spent at Kent, LCCC, and CSU, but I look back at the two years I had there with many fond memories, and along the way I've realized there were a lot of things I took for granted going to a small Christian university like the Naz. Here are the list of things I took for granted about going to MVNU and why I think anyone should consider going to a Christian university.

Ribbon cutting ceremony on move-in day (happens at graduation just like that, too),
The Eternal Flame, Chapel, The Grove
Beliefs and Faith. No matter where we were, we were always reminded of our ultimate purpose; to love God and love people. "To seek to learn is to seek to serve" was everywhere. There were Christian books in the book store, chapel was three days a week, I had the opportunity to serve in ministry groups that would do things like visit nursing homes, opportunities for service trips, we would pray before classes, and just learn from a Christian worldview. I really regret not taking my Bible classes more seriously; that knowledge could have stayed with me forever had I chosen to apply myself more, not to mention I was going to be getting CREDIT for reading my Bible! I also miss chapels, even if they were annoying to go to at times when I was really sleepy. MVNU stands for wonderful things, and I just didn't get that feeling of worthwhile, core beliefs at my other universities. Regardless of what you believe, I think the atmosphere of the school as a whole would be beneficial to anyone attending.

The community. You may not know the names of everyone, but boy, you actually know a LOT of the faces around campus. You could walk up to just about anyone and start a conversation with them. One of the first things that struck me about MVNU was how everyone held the door for each other. You don't see that anywhere nowadays. And this campus community knew how to have good, clean, fun. Cardboard boat races, SonFest, Resident Life Week, Oaktober Fest, Block Party, donut runs, lip sync contests... I could go on and on about the really fun events that Student Government and the residence halls/apartments put on. Sure, we would often complain about being bored because of the small-town college life, and yes, we did go to Walmart for fun, but I loved that our campus knew how to have fun without drinking, drugs, or sexual promiscuity. My dad was floored when he came to Oaktoberfest (a pig roast on the lawn of a guys' dorm) and he didn't see anything sketchy, no one drinking, and when he witnessed the all-around positive atmosphere, being a Kent State grad himself. Christian universities have wonderful atmospheres to build friendships with one another.

From top right to left; ResLife Week Boat Race South Side First Floor, Dorm Trip to Pumpkin Patch
Bike Trip at the top of a small mountain in AZ, End destination of cycling trip in Glenndale, AZ
The professors. I am not 100% sure all the profs were as awesome as mine in the social science dept., but man, all in all the professors were great. They made themselves available to talk to whether that be coming to the office or sitting down and having lunch with them, or even dinner at their house! You could talk to them about ANYTHING; they would listen and they genuinely care. They all had experience in their fields and knew how to make the classes and education applicable to us as students in the real world. They also were awesome at creating...

Learning Opportunities. The classes were great; I went on a trip called Group Dynamics class that was a month-long bicycling trip in California starting in San Francisco traveling down to San Diego, then over to Phoenix, AZ. There are also over 15 travel opportunities and ways to gain experience. In one of my other classes, we got to do a lab with rats; I know for most people that sounds weird, maybe, but for students as early as their sophomore, even freshmen year to be able to work in a lab with rats like many of the leading psychologists have, is HUGE. In another class, our first lesson was on social norms, so we took a "field trip" to the men's restroom to talk about the unsaid man rules that are in there... Lol. Had I continued my education there, my senior year, I could have been placed in an internship experience AND been in a class that had me practice counseling. I realized later at KSU, LCCC, and CSU that not everyone has exposure to those kinds of experiences, and that truly makes me sad because I learned SO much through them. I also felt that at MVNU that I had less distractions than the other three schools; quiet hours generally stayed quiet, no partying at all hours to keep you up, the library had plenty of space to spread out because the population of the school was smaller... I only wish I really would have taken advantage of those things!

Safety. While all college campuses are quite public--anyone can walk into most places--I felt pretty safe at MVNU. Going back to the previous point, there really wasn't any drugs or alcohol to worry about, and because of the small nature of the school, crime didn't really happen. I got emergency and campus security texts from Kent State and Cleveland State because I attend/ed them, and I can't even begin to tell you how many were about people getting mugged. Granted, these people should've thought twice about being out so late and alone, yet, it was NEVER a worry of mine while attending Mount Vernon.

The campus. It was absolutely gorgeous. Lots of green space and trees; the buildings were maintained and kept up to date, the chapel was beautiful on the inside, technology was utilized in the classroom, we had both dorms and apartments to live in, and plenty of parking (even though it did not seem like it at the time). At Kent I HAD to take a bus to get from the stadium where I parked to the campus and it was a lot faster a lot of times then walking; other times, it wasn't though since it ran in a loop in only one direction. I hadn't realized just how lucky I was to park that close to anywhere I lived or commuted to school. Seriously, parking is a BLESSING. Lol. ;)

I know not ALL Christian schools will have the same qualities that MVNU did for me (and not all the majors may have offered the same amount of hands-on learning, but I just don't know that because I didn't major in anything but psych and soc), but I know from visiting enough Christian universities' campuses that there are many that do. I hope that you consider the qualities I listed as important enough to consider checking out a Christian university. I've had a lot of good things come from my experiences at Kent and Cleveland State as well as LCCC, but that's another blog post. ;)

How are you doing deciding on college? Do you know someone struggling through the same questions I did? In the end, I think you should pray about wherever you may go, but here are some other posts I found to be helpful:
6 Ways To Waste Your College Education
3 Reasons Why Christians Should Consider a Non-Christian College
Good. Better. Best. How to narrow down your college choices and pick one that’s right for you.
After Acceptance: How to Finally Decide on One School

Have you attended anywhere that gave you a really great college experience? What are the most vivid memories you have of school? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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