In high school, I heard a lot about how nobody really stays involved in religious life when they get to college, and I got a bit worried. I had been pretty involved in church groups growing up, and I didn’t want to lose that aspect of my life or that sense of community. As it turns out, there is ample opportunity to get involved in religious and spiritual life at Dartmouth, and it has been more rewarding than I could have imagined.
In my last post, I mentioned an Alternative Spring Break Trip. These are programs, now common at many universities, where instead of travelling somewhere different to party on the beach, students travel somewhere different to do community service. I had no idea that this program existed until I went to an informational meeting freshman fall while trying to impress a girl or something. I left the meeting with a stack of forms and a vague interest that this might be an interesting way to spend a week. I ended up applying to an interfaith service trip, “working to serve the homeless population in the San Francisco Bay area and exploring service as a shared value across religious and cultural lines.” Helped along by my half-Christian, half-Jewish family (I remember describing myself as “a walking interfaith dialogue”), I was accepted to the program and met the rest of the group.
Coming from a pretty homogenous part of the country, it was an eye-opening experience to be able to share experiences and perspectives with such a culturally and religiously diverse group of people while working together with them for a good cause. I learned a ton about other people’s spiritualities and was able to redefine my own beliefs. When I got back to campus, I joined the Multi-Faith Conversations discussion group, which brought the same discussions back to campus, and I’ve been coming to meetings ever since.
There’s an amazing degree of religious openness here, which you might not expect from a place with so many educated and opinionated people. So many people are still looking and searching, trying to redefine what they believe or just trying to understand their friends on a deeper level. Sometimes, like in my house’s Passover Seder today, they’re just looking to partake an interesting slice of cultural heritage.
Besides, Manischewitz tastes just like Communion wine.