It wasn’t long ago I arrived at Warwick University as an excited and somewhat nervous fresher. I remember the strange silence that followed as my parents closed the door on my fully decorated fairy-lit den of a first-year bedroom. Looking at the room I was to call home for a year, I sat myself on my bed and stared outside as my parents walked past, hand in hand; having seen off their eighteen-year-old daughter on what was the next big adventure of her life: “Studentdom.”
Moving away from home and beginning to establish yourself as an adult is a pretty big deal. The first term – or even year – of university is one of the most exciting and challenging times. You’re met by an array of opportunities and experiences, and not to sound too punny, but it’s a year of many “firsts.” Like, meeting people who may – or may not – become incredible friends (some of them do). Adding a blizzard of people on Facebook, some of who you’ll become great friends with, some of which you’ll look at three years later and think “um, who?” because you added them on that one night during fresher’s week and thought you may just see them again, yet never did (I’m still finding people from Fresher’s pop up). You’re met with new things to learn academically, and find yourself adapting and learning many new life skills. I.e. working a washing machine. (Yup, me). My mum never fails to mention the story of how I called her up asking what a “drum” was because the instructions clearly said, “put the washing liquid in the drum.” If you’re a student reading this and don’t know what a “drum” is yet – have no fear, by the end of your three years you’ll hopefully have it sorted.
For all its quirks, craziness, and challenges, adjusting to life as a student and growing in independence is such a fun experience – and reflecting on it now as a recent graduate – it was an integral time in establishing my own faith, and investing in my relationship with Jesus.
On one of my first Sundays at church, following numerous conversations consisting of “What’s your name?”, “What do you study?”, “Where are you from?”, “What university?” I remember chatting with the Warwick small group leader about her experience as a student so far. She quickly responded on how much you change from your first year to your final year, something I am now in agreement with. On my first visit to Jubilee church, I would not have thought that in three years’ time I’d still be living in Coventry, doing a year with the church, and have made life-long friendships with people I’d seen at different student lunches running throughout the year. Nor could I have anticipated the encouragement and great support in my walk with Jesus these friendships would be, friendships with both students and non-students. It’s bizarre reflecting on a time when all these people I know, love, and share my life with, and call my family, were once faces I saw dotted about on a Sunday morning.
With all the different advice Buzzfeed articles or Tab articles give on student life, I think I’ll focus my post on a tip of my own: get stuck into a local church. Whether it’s Jubilee, or not, getting involved in a local church is integral. It’s a place to be fed (both spiritually and literally *cough cough* student lunch plug…they happen every Sunday). The church is somewhere you can invest in, and be invested in, you can be supported and join in on mission in the city you’re in. It helps you get to know and love the city you’ve been placed in for these years, while being part of a community who can help make you feel a little bit more at home on those homesick days. Moreover, the local church is a source of great encouragement, helping to direct you and help you walk with purpose as you pursue Jesus throughout your university years and beyond
In a conversation I had about student work with Becci Brown (part of our student team), one thing that stood out was how important this stage of life is in developing faith and raising up leaders. “Leaders raising up leaders” was an expression used. To get to university alone, and make that move from home is something that’s already taken effort, independence, and resilience. The years to come are full of new sets of challenges: academically, emotionally, even practically. But with God at the centre, and a church family cheering you on, the road ahead is most definitely an exciting one. While settling in a church takes time, it’s been one of the most fruitful uses of my time as a student and I couldn’t insist on it more.
The relationships God has placed in my life through the church have been a fundamental source of encouragement, support, and accountability which has helped, and continues to help equip me in my pursuit of Jesus and the call He has on my life. I’m now doing a part-time year with Jubilee Church and looking to develop in social outreach and media. Many of my Warwick, Coventry, and Nexus friends have also moved on to exciting ventures in different places where God is calling them to be.
To all students reading this, enjoy and embrace this time, it’s exciting to think about how God can continue the great work He’s already started in you throughout the university years – and the years to come.