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Dani Somerville ENC 1102H UCF-The Melting Pot

With over 50,000 students, the University of Central Florida is a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, and religions. Anywhere that I look I can see diversity and uniqueness not only between students, but also between the different environments. That is the one aspect I love the most about this school, I never feel isolated as a minority. Every single entity of my existence is accounted for in some way throughout the campus. In other words, I never feel secluded from the other students based on my race, culture, or religion. The campus does a fantastic job of creating a welcoming environment that allows individuals to freely express themselves. When I leave campus, I notice an even greater sense of diversity. There are numerous places of worship, restaurants, and even stores that target specific religious or cultural groups. However, these places are inviting to all, even those who are of opposing beliefs are welcomed.

I come from a Roman Catholic family and have always been surrounded by a predominantly Christian population. I was surprised to discover the broad range of religious affiliations that the students of UCF belong to. I found that there is a very high Jewish and Christian population. Although I do not attend service as much as I would like to, I still try to go to church monthly. On one of my random afternoon adventures of just aimless driving, I discovered a quaint church in Winter Park. To my delight, it was a Catholic Church that held Sunday Masses all day, which would fit in perfectly with my busy schedule. Even though it is a little bit of a drive away, I try to attend service at this church as often as possible, especially during the holidays. I am so content that I found this church, for it strengthens my spiritualty of

Catholicism and creates a stress-free, accepting environment that is sometimes needed to escape the stress of school.

After noting how beneficial religious practice was in my life, I began to wonder if other students felt the same way. I based my annotated bibliography on how religion affected social interactions amongst college students. Before college, I failed to even acknowledge the plethora of religions that surrounded me. But now that I have been introduced to these different religions, I have become very interested in their unique traditions and beliefs. I conducted an interview to discover the role religion plays in the lives of college students. I received many different results, from people stating that they do not associate with a religion, to people who attend religious services daily. I really enjoyed listening to each person talk about their religion, especially when they felt so passionate about it. After conducting my interview, I concluded that students who consider themselves highly religious associate mainly with students of similar beliefs. On the other hand, students who did not consider themselves that religious were more open-minded and had a religiously diverse group of friends.

I have noticed that as the semester went by and my classes got more rigorous, I found it very challenging to make it to church. Although my faith did not weaken, my time devoted to religious practices certainly decreased. From volunteering and fulfilling all of my prerequisites for physician assistant school, it is nearly impossible to have any free time; every second matters. Even though I may not be able to attend service as often as I would like, I know that just being around spiritual people keeps my faith strong. By this, I do not mean that I only surround myself with students of Catholic beliefs, its actually quite the contrary. I like having a diverse group of friends, as well as having friends with similar beliefs to my own. The diversity within my friend

group allows me to learn and understand different religions and cultures. This worldly knowledge is imperative to have, since from this point on in my life I will only be expanding my horizons, meeting new people and going to new places. Having an understanding of what different cultures believe creates a unanimous sense of acceptance for all.

However, I have also noticed that some students turn to religion for merely a sense of approval amongst peers. When discussing religion and religious practices there is the idea of intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientation (Kneipp pg 1). Intrinsic orientation refers to the internal desire for spirituality, while extrinsically oriented individuals only demonstrate religious behaviors in order to gain social status or acceptance. It is upsetting to think that some students only practice a religion in order to fit in with their peers. This is how many people lose their individuality and conform to fit the popular standards.

Many universities, including UCF, provide many opportunities and physical spaces for religious activities and events to take place. I have not found any physical on campus places of worship, like churches or temples, but there are many places located within miles of campus. I currently live on campus, but as I progress through my collegiate experience I plan on moving to an off campus housing location. I began touring different housing communities and eventually came across NorthView. My friend and I took a tour of the complex and we both were extremely impressed with it. It had a very modern, upscale design and is actually listed as a UCF Apartment Community. At the end of the tour, the guide briefly mentioned how NorthView was constructing both a Catholic Campus Ministry Center and a Hilell Center for Jewish students. I thought that this was very interesting since these centers would be accredited by UCF Housing. Personally, my housing decision would not be swayed because of these two added centers, but I

know that it must affect many other students decisions. I think that it is wonderful that there will now be a place for Catholic and Jewish students to worship, however I feel as though this might create a sense of separateness for students of any other religion. Even though the UCF population is prominently of either Christian or Jewish faith, there are still numerous other religions present. On campus space used for religious purposes has actually caused many negative repercussions for students of conflicting religious groups. Many territorial issues have arose causing much tension between religious groups and organizations. Arguments usually consist of whose religious symbols are on display in these spaces and whose are not (Rockenbach pg 2). This occurrence is not limited to just UCF, these issues are existent in universities throughout the country.

All of the on campus dining facilities are great examples of the physical spaces that different religious groups might crave. Religion plays a large part in the selection and consumption of food by some individuals and by their respective communities (Dugan pg 1). Along with religion, race also plays an important role on the type of cuisine that is sold at these restaurants. According to CollegeBoard.org, UCF is 57% white, 22% Hispanic, 6% Asian, 11% African American, & 3% Two or more races. I think that there is a vast variety of food choices on campus alone. For instance, in the Student Union we have Balagan, Asian Chao, and other ethnic options. Balagan offers many different Mediterranean dishes and Kosher foods which would appeal to Jewish students. Across from my dorm building there is a Subway and a Kyoto. Although Kyoto is a Japanese cuisine, it is very modern and appeals to all cultures. There are hundreds of off campus restaurants that have greater cultural environments, but even still all students are welcomed and accepted.

I could not be happier with my decision to come to UCF. I love the fact that everywhere I go, I meet new, diverse students. Coming from New York, this university makes me feel like I am at home. Everyone here is unique, there is a myriad of cultures, religions and races all blended into one community. While never losing sight of my originality, I have most certainly developed a sense of appreciation and curiosity for all of these amazing beliefs and philosophies.

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Works Cited Dugan, Beth. "Religion and Food Service." Cornell Hotel & Restaurant Administration Quarterly 35.6 (1994): 80-86. Academic Search Premier. Web. Kneipp, Lee B., Kathryn E. Kelly, and Cheryl DuBois. "Religious Orientation: The Role of College Environment and Classification." College Student Journal. 45.1 (2011): 143-50. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. Kornfeld, Jason. "What Role Does Religion Play in Your Life?" Personal interview. 27 Mar. 2014. Lin, Emily. "What Role Does Religion Play in Your Life?" Personal interview. 27 Mar. 2014. McKeown, Emily. "What Role Does Religion Play in Your Life?" Personal interview. 27 Mar. 2014. Picchiello, Michael. "What Role Does Religion Play in Your Life?" Personal interview. 27 Mar. 2014. Yasher, Aviel. "What Role Does Religion Play in Your Life?" Personal interview. 27 Mar. 2014.

Rockenbach, Alyssa, and Matthew Mayhew. "How the Collegiate Religious and Spiritual Climate Shapes Students' Ecumenical Orientation." Research in Higher Education 54.4 (2013): 461-79. Academic Search Premier. Web.