Bleak gray light filtered through the clouds as my roommate and I picked our way along the damp dirt path we followed through the mounds of clover. My feet picked up small drops of dew as they brushed against the grass. Despite the stormy aspect of the day, I couldn’t help but feel grateful.
It’d been awhile since I had had a long conversation with my roommate. It was pleasant to laugh as we discussed the ethics of dormcest and the sudden spike in FroSoCouples. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a roommate who has not only made my transition to Stanford bearable but enjoyable. The first time I met her I had been incredibly nervous. Would she get mad if I played loud music? Would she be able to cope with my incessant nocturnal habits? What if she didn’t like Asian food?
These everyday worries swirled around a greater storm centered on one question: what if she disapproved of my religion? It wasn’t the first time I had struggled to come to terms with others who saw my religion as an issue. It had taken time and love to get my father and stepmum to warm up to the fact that I was a Mormon. However, college was a different matter. I was no longer under the protection of clauses in a custody file or the guiding hand of my mother. I was alone, and would have to settle issues on my own terms. As a Mormon who doesn’t drink, isn’t sexually active and avoids the harder aspects of party culture, I was nervous to attend Stanford.
While others might laugh at my apprehension, there was no denying that the secular aspect of our school scared me. Would I be able to live my religious standards without offending others? That was the dominant question on my mind.
After choosing to attend Stanford there have definitely been rough moments when I felt my stomach clench because of my religious background. Realizing our three books for the summer had explicit sexual content. Stomach clench. Having conversations over the colonial past of Christianity. Stomach clench. Going to NSO’s presentation on sexual health. Huge stomach clench.
Each of these moments may have made me feel uncomfortable, but they also helped me to learn more about myself and my standards. I’ve also been surprised by how people have not only accepted me despite my religion, but have approached me with respectful curiosity. Late night conversations about religious doctrine, alternative options for my dietary restrictions and love from friends of diverse religious (and non-religious) backgrounds have confirmed to me that Stanford is the place I had hoped it would be. It is a space of coexistence, where disagreement does not have to mean contention. Everyday I’m reminded of this when my roommate walks in the door and gives me a big smile, instantly calming my fears, just like the first time we met.
Contact Sophia Kim-O’Sullivan at huali99 ‘at’ stanford.edu.