“I’m not usually friends with Republicans, but I guess I’ll make an exception for you.”
The words were said in jest to me, but I knew there was truth in them. They confirmed my biggest fear, going into my freshman year of college—that my conservatism would create a barrier to forming true and lasting friendships.
When I arrived on campus, I danced around the topic of politics in conversation, but it was difficult.
For students at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., politics is the driving force behind a lot of social engagement.
Making matters worse, my first year in college came as animosity and division over the election of President Donald Trump was palpable not only on campus, but across the nation.
With that, I stayed silent as disparaging jokes were made about Republicans. I didn’t raise my hand in class during political discussions for fear of being ostracized by my peers and penalized by my professors.
When peers asked me about myself, I avoided talking about politics. I was so careful, I didn’t find out one of my roommates was conservative until mid-October.
But the situation more than nagged at me. As time wore on, I realized my behavior was unsustainable. I knew I was not being my true self. Politics is infused into the social atmosphere at my college, and all too often I was forced to bite my tongue or keep new friends at arm’s length.
I decided I was not going to let a hostile political environment control my college experience.