By Tyler Bui | Staff Writer
As I reflect on my senior year in high school, I remember feeling anxious about my decision to attend Baylor. Born in raised in Hopkinton, Mass., I was used to New England and the progressive culture I was brought up in. I knew that by moving across the country, I would encounter differences in culture and societal norms.
I expected the “typical” Texas things: cowboy boots, trucks and country music. What I didn’t expect was to be met with a less accepting community, and it wasn’t a change I was excited about.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s an endless list of things that I love about Baylor and Texas in general.
One of the things that I enjoy the most is the friendliness that most Texans possess. Whether you’re doing ordinary tasks like grocery shopping or pumping gas, walking around campus or eating at a restaurant, you can always expect a smile and a greeting from the strangers around you. It’s really refreshing, especially coming from Massachusetts where this is not the case.
The Baylor community has also helped me become more interested in faith. Although I’m not religious myself, it’s been amazing to be in a community that’s strongly connected through faith, opening me up to the possibilities of exploring my personal beliefs about religion.
I was raised with a strong emphasis on respect, kindness and acceptance — not only by my parents, but by my coaches, teachers and peers as well. This has been something that I value strongly for myself and respect the most about others.
During middle school and high school, I was insecure and unsure of who I truly was. Being in an environment where everyone was free to express themselves without judgment really gave me the confidence to explore myself and what I was passionate about. I became more comfortable talking to strangers, making new friends and putting myself out there to experience new opportunities.
I definitely took for granted how progressive my school was. We had a large international student population, a diverse selection of clubs and organizations, a large LGBTQ+ community that was fully supported by our school, gender-neutral bathrooms and an overall accepting environment. Students were free to voice their opinion and express themselves. It was what was expected — everyone had respect for each other, and didn’t judge based on sexual orientation, race or other differences.
Without this experience in high school, I don’t think I would be as comfortable with myself as I am today. Being Asian-American and first generation, I felt out of place, but I gained confidence and a sense of belonging through my peers and community. I feel grateful for this experience and can only hope that people in a similar situation as I was could experience the same.
When I first came to Baylor, it took me a few months to really grasp the culture present on campus. I was so caught up with my new environment and friends that I didn’t take the time to take a step back and evaluate my new surroundings. As I started to settle into my new home, I slowly began to realize the big difference in the culture of acceptance.
I realized that the environment here was different from what I was used to; although there were many people who were just as accepting and open, there were also others who were not. In any community there will always be differences, and that is something that cannot be changed.
However, I think the university must to do a better job of encouraging a more open and inclusive environment. For example, acknowledging Baylor’s unofficial LGBTQ+ group Gamma Alpha Upsilon as an official group on campus. In order to work towards a truly equal environment, there must be an equal platform for representation and expression on campus.
In addition, I think Baylor needs to work on better recognizing the diversity on campus in multiple aspects. We tend to focus our attention on the big things on campus, such as sports events and Greek life and seem to forget about the other groups and events. We need to make an effort to celebrate and acknowledge the different talents and passions on campus, as well as embracing the different cultures and ethnicities represented on campus.
Although we are a ways away from a truly inclusive community, I believe there has been great progress. Looking back on where society was 20 years ago, we have made great lengths to become more accepting and supportive of our peers. However, I challenge you to open your mind to change, and be mindful and respectful of the differences and diversity in our community.