Congratulations! You are going to university or beginning a degree course. This can be a daunting experience with many unknowns as it is a journey to unfamiliar settings and a new environment. Although all exciting, we must be guided through this stage as it can, and will most likely, shake our comfortable foundations. On the other hand, it can provide numerous opportunities to establish community, make new friends and discover priorities. So with that in mind, here are a few things that can help you stay rooted.
1. Don’t be afraid to stand out
We are children of God, through Christ, saved by grace (Gal. 3:26). If we are unsure about who we are, this is a reminder. Jesus died for our sins on the cross of Calvary, He chose death so we can be dead in our sins. Then He resurrected so we can be alive in Him to live as new creations, set apart from the world (Rom. 6:1-11). We are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14), we cannot be conformed by the world. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom 12:2). It can be easy to blend in, especially on a campus of over 10,000 or more students. However, we have been called to stand out. It may feel like there is no one else thinking like us or who is seeking the Lord earnestly, but that is not true!
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2. Community matters
This leads to the next point which is community. I would say this is one of the most important aspects of the university experience, regardless of location. Who we surround ourselves with will have a drastic impact on our lives over the next 3-4 years, or even longer, as we tend to maintain contact with our university friends afterwards. So, who are we allowing to have an influence on us?
Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character1 Corinthians 15:33
Our community is vital. If you already have a strong community, you should remain as close to them as possible. Having said that, we need community in our immediate proximity. It can be isolating trying to walk this journey alone, or at distance, because truthfully we were not meant to (Ecc. 4:9-10). There is strength when we find others to walk together and so many societies and groups exist for like-minded people. Our first interactions may not be with Christians but we should ensure those we interact with the most share our values or at least have mutual respect and understanding. At the same time, do not allow yourself to be negatively influenced to commit sin under any circumstance. University doesn’t stop us from being who we are, and the best place to find community is within a church.
3. Find a local church early
At first, this may be a difficult task and we may feel more reluctant to attempt this task, especially if we have an established church community back home. Nonetheless, we need somewhere in our immediate surroundings to build relationships, have close fellowship, and discipleship, with accountability. The pandemic has provided a unique opportunity for many of us to attend services online, but it is important to find a local church. We know the value of physical relationships, contact and in-person connections. We should not neglect this once we move away to university.
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing nearHebrews 10:25
Research and have a read of this article (A Guide to Finding a Good Church) to help in finding a suitable church to attend. Try to do this very early on in your arrival to build a habit of regular attendance before everything else takes over.
4. Know your priorities
The reason you are where you are right now is as a result of a choice, a decision made about the university and course. And everything has been ordained under Gods plan for your life to bring you to this location, for this purpose (Est. 4:14). Our hard work and dedication at this moment to our course and degrees can be an act of worship to God. We can reflect Christ through how we behave at university and how we conduct ourselves throughout our degrees. Therefore, we should not underestimate the influence our lifestyle, living for the glory of God, can have on others. (1 Tim. 4:12).
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.1 Corinthians 15:58
5. Enjoy the experience
Living for the glory of God, saved by the wonderful grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing eternity is our promise is a joy to behold (Rom. 5:2). When we are working unto the Lord and not man (Col. 3:23), we can relax. Why? Because we are not seeking approval or trying to set a standard, we work from a place of approval, we work for God and we enjoy the work of our hand (1 Thess. 2:4). There is a lot to be experienced at university, we should enjoy it. But never forget, our true enjoyment is when we see Jesus face to face and we hear, well done good and faithful servant.