While many individuals likely encounter more homogeneity at BYU than they did in their hometown, I was exposed to ideas and backgrounds at BYU that I hadn't encountered growing up in Orem, Utah. I had roommates from all over the country, including some who were more experienced or knowledgable about things (like intimate physical relationships) than I was. So talking to and learning from my roommates was eye-opening to me in many ways. I realized that there were lots of different types of Mormons and lots of ways to interpret Mormon doctrines and practices.
A big aspect of my BYU experience was the strong social pressure to get married. There was an expectation for women to go to school until they found someone to marry and then drop out. The idea of conforming to this expectation was heartbreaking to me because I adored school so much. I often felt like I was getting away with something (i.e. flying under the radar) as I threw myself into my studies. It was ok for me to love school and dedicate my life to it as long as nobody asked me to marry him, right? I remember someone who I knew from High School commenting on my graduation by saying something like, "So you made it through BYU without a proposal, huh?" I said "yeah" but thought in my mind "thank goodness." I couldn't imagine being married at that time in my life and was overjoyed that I was graduating without having to face the pressure to have children and discontinue my educational and career pursuits.
Ironically, the major I chose was Marriage, Family, and Human Development which is stereotypically the major chosen by women biding their time until marriage and children. However, I was really interested in this major as a science, as a field of discipline. I had always been fascinated by psychology and loved the developmental perspective of how people change over time. I had both good and bad classes in that major. Some of my course packets included nothing but church talks and quotes from general authorities. Given that I was already taking religion classes and attending church 3 hours a week I wanted my college courses to focus on the science of my discipline. By the time I graduated, I had figured out which teachers were actually going to give me that science. A number of years ago, I went through my undergrad notebooks and packets and threw out most of them. Looking through 6 years of my intellectual development was interesting (it took me six years because I served a mission). I saw all kinds of comments scribbled in the margins that articulated my struggle to reconcile social pressures and what I felt was right for me.
Overall, I didn't have very good dating or social experiences with the men at BYU. I was still pretty shy around the opposite sex and didn't know how to strike up a casual conversation. The culture that ascribed so much meaning to boy-girl interactions didn't help either. I remember one particular ward I was in in which people wouldn't even acknowledge your existence unless they were interested in you. Casual interactions were awkward because even a friendly exchange could be interpreted as a deep attraction. They were avoided like the plague. Also, I remember a couple of men I tried to engage intellectually, which didn't go over well either. One man told me he was a psychology major but when I tried to talk to him about the paper he was working on, he completely brushed me aside. I think he didn't take me seriously because of my choice of major.
As I mentioned, I served a mission. I left for my mission in the middle of my Junior year, and the experiences I had as a missionary played a big role in my feminist development.
To be continued...