Which school should I choose? I like Wesleyan’s campus except for the dorms. I’ve always wanted to go to UNL like Sean. But Union has the master’s program I want and I can make connections with professors early.

Choosing Union College was purely on an educational basis, mostly because I didn’t know the Seventh-day Adventist Church was a denomination. My childhood consisted of Catholic and public schools.

The required religion courses and worship credits at Union caused me to hesitate enrolling. I felt as if I was being forced to learn a new religion and was appalled I had no say in the matter. Also I know there are Adventists who would walk away immediately if told they had to take classes about Catholicism.

During my first semester my first experience with the Adventist Church generated a desire to switch schools. All incoming students are required to take Christian Beliefs, so that was my first religion course at Union. This will give me a chance to understand this environment, I thought.

Knowing few people on campus and feeling like a complete outsider, I made my way into my Christian Beliefs class and sat in the back row to survey the class and professor. Exams were laid on the desks.

“Just do your best. I am looking to see where everyone is at,” the professor assured us.

I am going to fail this. I know nothing about this religion. I feel foolish.

We were instructed to write our religion at the top of the front page before we turned in our exams. Later the professor told me, “Because you are not Adventist you will struggle in this class and most likely fail. My teaching style is fast paced.”

Well, that wasn’t the warm welcome I was hoping for. I guess he’s saying I’m not good enough. How am I supposed to learn this religion and get through the next four years?

Luckily, Pastor Rich Carlson, who teaches the Intro to Christian Beliefs course, changed my perspective of Union College and Adventists. Pastor Rich gave assignments such as having to attend three different Adventist churches, reading Mr. Blake’s book Swimming Against the Current, and writing a one page paper about our own religion to introduce it to the other students. These assignments gave me a good beginning to understanding Adventist ways.

Eye Opener

I have enjoyed the religion courses I have taken the past four years. My eyes were opened not just to Adventism but also to new ideas about Catholicism. Connecting with friends in the Adventist church—and professors as well —has made me feel welcomed and that I’m not so different from other students after all.

Being at Union and attending worships has strengthened my own faith and beliefs in a way that I’m more active in my own church, or I’m attempting to be. I understand more clearly what I personally believe. Most of all, I have a better understanding of what it means to follow in God’s footsteps no matter what denomination we claim. My school choice was perfect and helped me with my education and spiritual life.

It’s easy to call people who are different from us crude names when we don’t understand their ways.

Some Adventists believe Catholicism is the prophecy of “the beast” and Catholics are coercive and deceptive to everyone around us. But is it not true that everyone is deceptive at one point or another? Everyone struggles admitting their own faults; that’s human nature.

Even if we may not share the same beliefs, we all look to the Bible for guidance. One answer given to us multiple times is to love each other.

Bridging connections

As an outsider, I had to learn some lessons to make it easier to bridge connections with people who are different from me. We all have to do this. Here are tips to help the transitions.

  1. Ask questions. You may learn your beliefs are actually not that different.
  2. Make friends. Even if you don’t carry the same beliefs that doesn’t mean you can’t hold similar interests in another part of life.
  3. Be open to seeing different perspectives. There is nothing wrong with looking at a subject from different sides.
  4. Take action. Learn about different viewpoints so you can be knowledgeable. Then make new friends, as I have.

Megan Wehling from Lincoln, Nebraska is a senior English major at Union College. This story is part of a series called “Who are we?” from the February 2016 print edition of OUTLOOK, our annual special issue produced by Union College students.