Describe the culture you are experiencing at school.
There has not been a moment when I have not felt welcomed and included on campus. I believe that this stems from the idea that there is no judgement on campus. Regardless of age, sex, race, orientation, we are still people that have a story to share. Just by saying a friendly “Hello” and “What’s your name,” I have made so many personal connections. As of writing this, I have not been turned down once.
There is one aspect of the culture I have experienced that has been quite impactful during my time here at Bellarmine: living on campus. Originally, I was hesitant when I applied, believing it was not worth the extra cost being so close to campus. My mind was changed when I stayed overnight on a campus visit. I stayed in the dorms with some of the upperclassmen and at one point or another the entire floor walked in to talk to my hosts and me.
That snippet of solidarity was what convinced me to live on campus.
How does the culture of a Catholic university support you in your personal growth and decision making?
I believe the culture has truly transformed the way I approach relationships with everyone. I have always had issues with asking for help in all areas of my life. I held this irrational belief that I would burden those around me with my issues, so I kept them to myself. In the past year, I have grown out of that shell and have been open.
I came to Bellarmine with none of my very close friends in high school and I found it rather difficult to maintain that level of confidence. My concerns were dashed however when I met with my professors and my peer minister. They were unconditionally open to listening to me. They reminded me that everything will be fine, it just takes time to truly adjust to a completely different life.
Attending Mass on campus is a new experience. How is it different for you?
For the first couple weeks, I did not attend Mass on campus. I was struggling to adjust and my attendance was less than usual. My adjustment was a slow process, but I found my groove nonetheless. On a Thursday night, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go to service with him. I was shocked: I finally knew someone to go with me to church.
I jumped out of bed, put on my best clothes, and rushed down to the chapel. As soon as I walked through the doors, I experienced serenity. It was like being welcomed home. The motions I have always performed felt as though they were my own again, yet different.
I realized that no longer would anyone be requiring me to go to Mass like in high school. My attendance is solely based on my volition to keep my faith, and I am happy.
Have you participated in service activities?
I was introduced to service immediately when I arrived here. My first brush with service was during our welcome week. As a member of the honors program, I was required to complete service with my classmates, however the amount you complete are totally up to the individual.
My honors class was invited to go to the Frazier History Museum and assist with some of their projects. One such project was cleaning up a lot on the 9th Street divide — the divide between east and west Louisville. I have lived in Louisville my entire life and had no idea this existed until they described it.
What Frazier wants to do with the site is to eventually build an area where community can be fostered between both sides. Our goal was to clear the lot of trash and make it more presentable.
Before we broke for lunch, we gazed back at the now freshly kept lot and were happy that one day this will be a vibrant gathering place for people of all ages and races, regardless of background.
Chris Rice is a graduate of DeSales High School and a Bellarmine University student, class of 2023.