College is truly a time when everyone comes into their own. You're away from your parents for the first time, you're responsible for yourself...it's an exciting yet frustrating time.
One thing that I've been thinking about lately in terms of my college experience (I now have three years under my belt...shit), is how much different my political views are now than when I first started college.
I'm going to be completely honest. As an 18-year-old fresh out of high school and ready to embark on the college experience, I was not very educated when it came to politics. Sure, I knew the basic differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party...but that was pretty much the extent of it.
I came to realize that as a teenager, I adopted the views of the people around me purely because they supported those viewpoints.
Most of my family (with the exception of some of my college-aged cousins) tend to be more on the conservative side of the spectrum. I am currently much more on the left side of the spectrum (I supported Bernie Sanders).
Although I don't agree with a lot of the views that my family has, I respect their views. But believe me, there are definitely political arguments that take place.
So anyway, going into college I was more of a "conservative" (I put conservative in quotations because I wasn't really involved in politics at the time, and I wasn't educated enough on politics to really place myself anywhere on the spectrum).
I had these viewpoints that I couldn't defend because I didn't have the information to back it up. Basically, I was blindly following some viewpoints that I didn't understand.
Early into my freshman year, I started becoming more interested in politics.
I read about politics, I kept up with current events, etc. I talked to people about politics, liberals and conservatives. I educated myself on the policies of our politicians. Once I started doing all of this, I was able to form my own ideas and my own opinions, and I was truly passionate about my viewpoints and could talk about them intelligently, whereas before I was more like, "Yeah, I believe this just because my family believes this."
Now, as a soon-to-be 21-year-old who is graduating college next year with a major in English and a double minor in criminal justice and political science, and who is going to law school in the fall of 2018... I know where I stand when it comes to my political beliefs, and that just happens to be different than that of the people around me growing up.
I'm not saying that anyone should go against the political beliefs of their family just for the sheer fact of doing so. But, don't blindly follow your parents' beliefs either. There are certainly a lot of things that my parents and I agree on, but there's also a lot that we disagree on.
The moral of the story is: educate yourself and form your own ideas.
Don't blindly follow viewpoints that seem to be popular among the people around you; educate yourself on the subject, and then decide whether or not you support it. You want the minimum wage to be $15? Great, why would that be beneficial to society? You don't agree with Donald Trump's travel ban? That's awesome, what is your rationale for not supporting it?
Politics is so much more than black and white, and while many people don't find politics as interesting as I do, I think it's important to make sure you understand it to the extent that you can make decisions and form your own beliefs.
There's so much more than just being a "Republican" or a "Democrat." Ideas tend to converge between the parties.
The takeaway: Before you support or reject an idea, a policy, etc...do your homework. You might come to find that some ideas that you wanted to support aren't actually what you agree with, and vice versa. And the most important thing? Have an open mind, and talk to people, especially people with whose viewpoints yours differ from.