Talk about hitting the ground running. I got back from spring break (11 days in my beautiful, still-snowy home state of Wyoming!) on Monday night, and by 7 a.m. Tuesday I was at Rejoice Free Will Baptist Church to speak with voters as they left their polling place. Yes, I was one of the students loitering 25 feet away from the doors, waiting to snag you after you voted.
Even though I probably drove you crazy by bothering you as you were clearly trying to hurry off to work, I have to say that the experience proved to be much more interesting to me than I expected.
I have always found that being a student puts me in a very unique position, community-wise. Most of us move away from home to go to college, and therefore we find ourselves in new places where we have to slowly learn about local dynamics. Especially in small communities like Columbia and the town I grew up in, much of the local culture is learned by osmosis. If you live somewhere long enough, you just pick up on the issues and what people care about. After being steeped in Wyoming politics for 22 years, I could answer almost any question you leveled at me. But Missouri issues? I had no idea what to expect.
Luckily for me, I have had the chance to work for the Columbia Missourian this semester. In particular, being exposed to such a large amount of election coverage helped me learn about community issues I otherwise probably would have ignored. And, after talking with some other students on campus, I have to conclude that I wasn’t completely alone in my Missouri-politics ignorance.
Even though many of us students consider our college town simply a short stopping point on the road of life, the fact remains that this is our home right now, and will continue to be for a significant portion of our lives. Four years is a long time, folks. Why not take the opportunity to learn as much about our community as we can?
Election day is over, but that doesn’t mean that students have missed their chance to get involved in the community. Read the newspaper (the Columbia Missourian, of course), do your homework in a downtown coffee shop or engage in conversation with locals. Whether you find yourself in agreement with local politics or not, I can guarantee that putting in a little effort to learn about the community will help Columbia feel more like your home, rather than a temporary vacation before entering the real world.