In fact every day, I'd pass the red/orange freethinker statue in the V.U.B courtyard on the way to the Metro, or stopping in Opinio, the campus cafe, for a sandwich with friends. It was, a sanctuary for me for four months, allowing me to grow in my education unlike I ever did on U.S. campuses. Indeed I can't say whether most schools in the U.S. would claim a secular status, or even that they were freethinking, but I can tell you atmosphere between the two is completely different.
At U.N.C.G, I do feel like I'm constantly censoring myself, carefully arranging thoughts and words to conform to my professor's beliefs. For the most part, I manage fine, and many professors are rather relaxed in my, commonly non-conformist views; however, even if I as a student am not affected by these American culture constructs, I can say that most instructors seem affected. Rarely, ever do I hear professors publicly announce their faith, or lack thereof- or express very freethinking views, especially when it comes to religion. Freethinking is taboo here.
In less then a week I start my "study-abroad" adventure here in the U.S.- I feel more like a stranger here, in my supposed home than I ever did in Belgium. I long for my freethinking sandwich runs, and the freedom to say and think without societal pressure.
Shouldn't U.S. Schools, like the V.U.B, promote freethinking. Place, and honor the great thinkers of the past in the history and icons of the school; isn't that the purpose of university?
Surely as I sit in class, and one day when I catch myself holding back words, and mentally chastise myself for it, I'll remember sitting on the V.U.B campus, at the campus bar, with a joint smoking communist, talking about international policy. There's somethings you just can't learn at an American university.