Face it: To the vast majority of the American people, Utah = Mormons = Uncool = Getting married at 17 and resigning yourself to a life of miserable parenthood and unfulfilled dreams. It's a deserted wasteland, so dead and barren that only the looniest cultists want to go even close to it (see Idaho, Arizona). Theocratic conservatism runs rampant and unchecked, creating a homophobic, xenophobic, everything-other-than-white-bread-phobic population of sheep.
So when I first started going to the University of Utah, I'd already steeled myself for an onslaught of passive aggressive potluck invitations, awkward missionary encounters, and a coffee/tea dessert. Turns out, I had it all wrong. Utah, especially Salt Lake City, is an incredible place. Here are 3 reasons why:
Mormons are Pretty Nice Folks
Okay, so I didn't grow up in the church and leave, resigning myself to apostasy. But as a non-Mormon, Protestant Christian living in the cultural epicenter of a religion known for their aggressive, near compulsory mission work, I've been pleasantly surprised at how cool Mormons can be.
Some of my absolute favorite classmates are incredibly Mormon, and the same goes for my coworkers. In general, they're friendly, considerate people, who always have something positive to say, and care about the community around them. And not once in my nearly 4 years at the University of Utah have I been proselytized to. Really.
I could tell you about the virtues of Mormon people all day, but instead, I'll just give you some examples of kick-ass LDS people:
- The Mama Dragons, an organization of LDS ladies who fight for LGBT Mormon youth.
- Jon Huntsman, whose more than $250 million in donations to the Huntsman Cancer Insitute has created on of the top cancer research facilities in the world
- Church-wide outreach and compassion for refugees.
Don't get me wrong, I think Mormonism is whacky. But hey, they probably think I'm whacky for not being Mormon. That doesn't mean we can't respect each other.
Utah's Arts Culture is INSANE
My major, Entertainment Arts & Engineering, is technically in the College of Fine Arts. On paper, I'm an artist. But compared to what the rest of Salt Lake City has going on, I've got nothing.
Everywhere I go, there are dozens of public art pieces, Train stations are littered with sculpture, the walls of nearly every building are coated in graffiti, wanted or otherwise. And the sheer volume of arts events is overwhelming . . .
If I'm in the mood for some sick visual arts? Make a visit to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA). Maybe I've had a long day of classes and want to kick back and watch a movie. For $6.75, I can go see a sick independent film at one of the Salt Lake Film Society's two venues, the Tower & Broadway Theatres. Or how about the most prestigious film festival in the Western Hemisphere?
Or the brand new, $126 million performing arts venue . . .
You get the point.
Salt Lake City is a Major Urban Area
Google something really quick: How many people live in Salt Lake City?
At a first glance, the SLC population is around 190,000. 20,000 people less than Boise. But dig a little deeper, and you'll see that the Salt Lake City area is thriving.
Salt Lake County has a population of over 1 million, and the whole Wasatch Front (an area that stretches 45 minutes north and south of SLC) boasts a populace of nearly 2.5 million. With so many people, there's always a ton to do.
I know that Salt Lake City isn't a New York or L.A., and it's not perfect, but there is a lot of cool stuff going on here.
Overall, I'm grateful for the experience I've had here in Utah. It's been a great place to go to college, and an awesome place to live.