By Tanner Corbridge
Sophomore Ryan Sorenson, a 24 year-old aviation science major from Sandy, Utah, doesn”t mind attending church in a singles ward. Dating opportunities have not been in short supply and ward pilgrimages to LaVell Edwards Stadium have become a ritual.
In fact, one day he”s sure he”ll miss the whole experience. Overall, college life in Provo is good to him.
Sorenson has lived the BYU experience differently than most BYU students, however. For starters, he doesn”t attend BYU.
Sorensen has spent the past three years studying at Utah Valley State College while building his social life in the BYU environment.
And though he can still rise and shout with the best of them, there are some things that have been difficult to adjust to.
“It”s hard sometimes because everyone just assumes that because I attend UVSC I”m hoping one day to attend BYU. There is a prevailing attitude that says, ”Oh, you go to UVSC? When are you transferring to the Y?”” Sorenson said.
Such responses to his enrollment at UVSC have not been uncommon over the years, and he struggles with those underlying assumptions. Especially because the program he attends at UVSC isn”t offered at BYU.
But Sorenson knows misunderstandings come with the territory, and he remains good humored.
“I was scared to death a few Sundays ago,” he said. “I was pretty sure after fast and testimony meeting that my salvation might be in question until I transferred to BYU.”
It should come as no surprise, however, that Cougar Pride is so plentiful in Happy Valley. For many BYU students, attending school at BYU has always been in the game plan.
Many students have heard mom and dad reminisce about the good old BYU experience since childhood, and attending BYU can be, to some degree, the continuation of a legacy. Some reasonably argue BYU provides the perfect atmosphere for combining the secular and spiritual worlds.
Yet, there remains a fine line to be walked between expressing gratitude and honor for the opportunity to attend such a unique university, while not appearing “holier than thou” to those electing other academic paths.
J. Francis Valerga, bishop of the BYU 135th Ward, has seen the sensitive nature of this issue among students in his ward.
“Everyone knows it”s wrong to judge others on the basis of such insignificant and superficial things as what school they attend,” Valerga said. “That”s as bad as judging people on the basis of what clothes they wear, what car they drive, or how far they can throw a football.”
Because university wards are called “BYU wards,” one can easily forget the BYU experience is not the only experience.
Bishop Valerga also cautioned when BYU students forget that, others might begin to quietly label themselves as second-class citizens in the ward or the kingdom.
And as for Ryan Sorenson, the pilgrimages and blind dates will continue, as he struggles with the rest of us to make his mark on the world.