3 things Vermont taught me

Confidence in My Faith

I’ve grown up in Massachusetts my whole life, which happens to be a very liberal and irreligious state, so going to Vermont, the granola republic of America, didn’t seem like that big of a change for me. As it turns out, Vermont is the least religious state in the U.S., with only 22% of its population responding “very religious” in a major survey. Also, Burlington is tied with Boulder, Colorado as the least religious city in the country. However, I don’t need to be in a religious environment in order to still practice my faith.

My point is that although I didn’t experience much “culture shock” by living there, living on my own as a Catholic woman attracted a lot of direct and indirect opposition. It was an overall very positive experience though. I learned how to stand up for what I believed in and really understood what it means for the faith to “become my own.” Being independent brought me a lot of joy. I sought out retreats, bible studies, and liturgy groups; I even got to lead a few discussions with the community about scripture, Advent, Lent, and the Eucharist! I took every opportunity that I could. Still, in these moments though, I realized I was missing something: fellowship.

While staying strong in my belief I experienced more respect than disrespect, and was able to have a lot of great conversations with people. Although I often felt alone, I realized that not everyone is going to have the same mindset as me, which is a good thing! Every one has a different human experience, and we can learn a lot about each other because of it, but it’s important to stick to your beliefs. People need truth so desperately, and they tend to respect you more for believing in something, even if it thoroughly entertains them to constantly disagree. In fact, despite my isolated feelings, on move out day someone told me that despite our differences, she actually really appreciated me and my strength. She said I was truly a light for her when she needed it, even if it was just in telling her, “I’ll pray for you.”

I spent many nights in the chapel in front of the tabernacle praising God for the opportunities I’ve been given, for the strength to continue, and for clarity in my confusion. It was in those silent moments where I understood that although Christ was with me, and I could do very well right where I am for the next 3 years, there’s also nothing quite like encountering God with the people you love around you. I realized that even though I was going to learn a lot of different kinds of people in Vermont, I needed to learn about myself, too. I wasn’t going to grow the way I wanted to if I didn’t have friends to support and encourage me home, so I sought fellowship, and I’m happy that I’ll find it more generously at Franciscan University.

I Don’t Like Snow

Like I said before, I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life, and now I’m thinking its time for a change. Living up in Vermont made me realize just how much I don’t like the snow. But not just the snow… the COLD! I am a skinny boned girl but I have become very hot-blooded living up in the green mountain state. I don’t think we experienced temperatures above freezing once from November to February. You become numb to the fact that it’s -20 degrees outside, and -5 degrees starts feeling like spring. Not to mention, the wind is brutal in the morning while walking to class. Sometimes I thought to myself, “Who in their right mind would ever decide to live here? Oh wait… I did.” Once it took me 30 minutes feel my feet again after a trip to Burlington.

I realize Ohio will be no better, but it’s a bit of an improvement, and don’t expect me to live in New England again. That’s just the way it is.

 The Environment is Important

The minute I stepped onto campus it was clear that it’s a mortal sin to carry a plastic water bottle. We were all given reusable water bottles at orientation, and were told that the campus doesn’t sell water bottles unless it’s flavored water. This was a nightmare to me at first! Water is probably my first choice beverage, and I’ve always had an endless amount of water bottles at my disposable whenever, whenever.

It had not occurred to me before that I was so privileged. A lot of people are just now trying to discover new ways to reuse water. California is in a drought. Processing our food uses more water than we could possibly comprehend. The plastic we throw out every day affects our oceans, our animals and other people who are more directly impacted by global warming. Even worse, in 10 years we might not have any drinkable water at our disposal. This is a scary thing!

My reusable water bottle and I became best friends and it pains me to think that while I’m so fortunate to go to my dining hall and fill it up every day, children across the world are suffering and dying from dehydration. All the videos in my environmental class got that reality across really quickly. So needless to say, I’m extremely happy that I lived in Vermont for a year because it really opened my eyes to a lot of social justice issues and very real environmental problems that need to be taken care of, too.

I’ve definitely become more environmentally conscious and aware of the world around me. Not to mention, I also had the opportunity to take a class last semester titled: “Religion, Ecology and Ethics” which helped emphasize what I have learned about the environment, but also recognize the different ways that all religions can unite and provide a moral perspective in battling our current crisis, which I enjoyed because, despite our differences, I believe that there is SO much to say about what the human race can do as stewards for God’s beautiful creation.

Overall, I don’t regret the last year I spent here, but I also don’t regret my decision to transfer either. I’ll take what I’ve learned with me. Bring on the new adventures ahead!

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