Describe a setting in which you have collaborated or interacted with people whose experiences and/or beliefs differ from yours. Address your initial feelings, and how those feelings were or were not changed by this experience.
Growing up, I was raised in a conservative home and was sheltered for much of my early life. As a family, we all ate at the same dinner table every night and attended church together every Sunday. I attended a small private school from kindergarten all the way until eighth grade. Here, we were expected to follow a strict dress code and attend chapel twice a week, conformity was the norm. I was raised in a setting where everyone around me had the same beliefs and ideals, and those with differing beliefs were viewed as outsiders. Without knowing, I had taken the ideology of the environment I was raised in as my own; I never took the time to introspect and figure out who I was as a person. I enjoyed this sheltered lifestyle, I never had deep arguments with friends and family and I seemed to get along with everyone around me. Only now- as a thoughtful and self-aware 18 year old- I realize that this way of being raised was only to my detriment, and not my benefit.
In eighth grade I knew that I did not want to be stuck at a small private school for the duration of my high school career, I realized that I wanted the chance to figure out who I was on my own. After incessant begging and convincing, my parents decided to let me switch schools at the start of my freshman year of highschool. I transferred to a large public school out of my district in order to play for their basketball team. I was shocked to find out that the enrollment in my ninth grade class was bigger than all the grades combined at my previous school. I knew switching schools would force me to leave behind my sheltered lifestyle, old friends, and old ways of life, but I was excited to begin a new chapter in my life. Being very social and outgoing all my life, I knew making new friends would not be a problem, however, I was nervous to see what kind of people I would encounter.
In order to ease the transition of switching schools, I joined the Student Government, I believe doing this would allow me to meet a myriad of people while allowing me to get involved on campus. I quickly made many new friends and began helping in school activities such as brunch activities and rallies. Everything at my new school was going great, I had made great friends and I was making a difference on campus. However, I was still close-minded, and I didn't realize it until a specific interaction with a few of my friends in my Student Government class.
Winter formal was coming up and it was the Student Government's job to run the event. The members were broken up into small groups to discuss ideas and come up with ways to improve on it from the previous year. The discussion in my small group somehow shifted from winter formal ideas to hot political topics in a matter of minutes. A few of my friends mentioned that they were pro gay-marriage, and asked me what my stance was on the topic. I told them that I was against gay-marriage and quickly tried to change the subject. But one member of the group, one of my closest friends to date, asked me why I had this viewpoint. I informed him that I was raised believing this and that my religion shared the same viewpoint. He said that he believed by denying gay people the right to marry, we are denying them the right to be happy and not allowing them to live their life in the way they want to live it. I was shocked, I had never looked at it like that before, I had no reply for him and sat quiet for the rest of the period. I was upset with my friend for putting me on the spot in front of our whole group. With one statement, he made me question what I believed and why I believed it.
That night, I went home and went straight to my room, I was still deeply affected by what happened earlier in the day. I was embarrassed that I had no greater explanation for my friends question other than that someone else told me what to believe. I came to the realization that I let my early environment dictate what I believed as a person. I decided from that point on I wouldn't let anyone or anything determine my core set of beliefs. I promised myself that I would come into any situation with an open mind, not ruling out any belief or idea just because it differed from what I previously believed. Over the following weeks, my small group worked together as a cohesive unit and contributed many ideas that were eventually implemented at the winter formal.
Although the incident in Student Government did not change my view on a single political issue, it changed Who I am as a person and how I look at other's differing beliefs and ideals. I am grateful to have had many opportunities to collaborate with individuals who have had varying experiences and viewpoints from mine. Without these experiences, I would not be as complete as a person I am today.