Going to college before serving a mission can help missionaries adapt to new cultures and learn how to live independently, but serving a mission before college can help instill work ethic and a sense of direction, according to returned and prospective missionaries.
“College prepares people for mission and the mission prepares people for college,” said Stine Plomgren, a sophomore from California majoring in anthropology who served her mission in Chicago. “My work ethic wasn’t great before a mission, but since I’ve come back I’ve been able to succeed in my classes. And I have more of a direction.”
In contrast, Ethan Landgraf, a freshman from Honolulu studying biomedicine, said he thinks people shouldn’t wait to attend a mission. “Before my mission, I was a really bad student. On my mission, I learned how to be hard working. If I’d gone to college first, I would’ve blown it. For some people, they’ll learn something in college that will help them, but for other people their mission helps them prepare for college.”
For Plomgren, college prepared her to live away from home and be independent. However, she said, “It didn’t prepare me for the spiritual and emotional challenges that a mission comes with because that’s its own beast. You have to serve a mission to understand that.”
Anna Bench, a freshman from Utah with an undecided major, currently has her mission call and said attending BYUH prepares prospective missionaries for adapt to new cultures. “It’ll depend, but culture shock is a real thing. Getting used to different cultures around you here is a big thing, especially getting exposed to different languages. [Going to college] allows you to grow up a little bit, meet new people, put yourself out there, and gain social skills.”
Landgraf said, “A quality that missionaries have when they get back is they’re uncomfortable with doing nothing. … I feel like if serving a mission is a goal of yours, you should just do it and not put it off. … Sometimes we overthink if we’re ready or not.”