In this post, I aim to discuss the life of a Christian at university; the difficulties, the witness, but also the joys and experiences that one will find. I have been at university for four years, doing a BA and then a MA at Winchester and it has been an experience! I have met many people, from all backgrounds, and I have become richer culturally speaking because of it. I have met people from different Christian backgrounds, agnostics, atheists and those of other religions. I have certainly learnt a lot from them all, and I thank God for such an experience. However, it has not been all plain sailing, and in this post I aim to address what it is like to be a Christian on campus and the difficulties we can face.
There are certainly a lot of pressures at university, to drink, to partake in sex before marriage and so forth. I was blessed by the fact that in my first year, my flatmates were completely understanding, and a few of them were Christians too. It was great going to the CU along with them, talking about God and encouraging each other, my non-Christian flatmates were also awesome, they never pressured me into doing anything and we had a lot of fun together. However, this isn’t always the case, and pressure can be tough to take, however, to take a stand for God is worth it, you realise you don’t need drink, sex or these things to make you happy or complete. In later blog posts I will discuss in more detail about the struggle with these individual items, particularly relationships. If you struggle with the pressure, then take it to the Lord in prayer, discuss it with him and talk to other Christians. Go to the CU for example and get involved, it is great to be around other Christians regardless of what background they have. In my first year, I had a great CU, great friends, and was greatly blessed, however, my case won’t be the same for all first year Christians. All I can say is that do not be discouraged, God is never far, he won’t let you go, his love never fails us! Once you have found yourself a great church that you feel at home at, whatever denomination (can even differ from the one you go to at home!), you will feel as though you have a home away from home!
Being a Christian on campus, means we have a great responsibility! We have a call to witness! Now this does not mean we go around forcing the gospel down people’s throats, dread to think what that would achieve! Our actions can speak louder than words, whether it is not swearing, or not going out to nightclubs, forgiving friends who have failed us, or to simply show love even in the darkest times, people notice these things and wonder why are they different? I have had many a good conversation with people about the Gospel, and I have hardly ever started any conversations myself! People are curious, and that is great, you don’t have to be going round saying “Jesus loves you” every five minutes, just show them by how you act. My biggest failing was that I never got involved in the CU properly, I attended events in my first year, but started to decline my attendances from 2nd year onwards, and it is shameful that I did. CU’s are called to evangelise, and have a great impact at University, whether its talking about the gospel or giving people tea and coffee on a Wednesday night to people who had been clubbing. The love shown at CU’s has been a great encouragement to me, and the desire for God never ceases to amaze. I have even had some amazing personal experiences, and I can only recommend them to people of all different denominations.
Being a Christian means that we are different from other students, but that doesn’t mean we keep ourselves in our little bubble and never talk to others! Many of my friends over the four years have been non-Christians and they have helped me as I have helped them. Do not feel as though you can only be friends with Christians, firstly it’s a bad witness, secondly you can learn so much from them, and learn more about human beings in general. University certainly moulded me as a person, I became more confident, I became crazier! Being at University moulded my faith; I began to trust God more and more. At uni, you will go through pain and hardship, I won’t make it sound like a fairy-tale, it isn’t. Do not however, be scared of it, God may call you to uni, he may not have, but if he has, take the challenge and be that light. Trust in the Lord, and if you wander, the Lord will bring you back, remember through the trials and temptations that he is standing next to you. Lean on him, let him carry you! I wish I had more and more when I look back. I messed up big time, and made some huge errors. We aren’t perfect, but God always brings us back, and that is just wonderful news.
Do not go to university expecting to find your one true love. In some ways, I thought I would, I was naïve in that. I will discuss relationships in more detail in the future as it needs an entire post dedicated to it, but I made mistakes, and it wasn’t good for my spiritual walk with Christ. Now you may find the perfect partner, that Christian girl or guy who is fantastic, many of my friends have, and I am really happy for them, but it isn’t guaranteed. Even though I tried, I have never had a Christian relationship, but God will put someone into our lives when we and that person are both ready. There is no rush, focus on the kingdom, and the people around you, and see what happens.
Another bit of advice would be about politics. Be careful! University is all about politics, it seems you have to either be really left wing or right wing, maybe that’s just me being sceptical, but don’t get drawn into needless political debates. It won’t solve anything, and will end up with people getting really angry and annoyed. I’m not saying do not get involved with politics, I truly believe that Christians should get involved as much as they can. What I suggest is to avoid all the petty arguments and hate. Learn to understand other points of view and respect others. Basically follow the example set by Jesus, as in all things!
I recommend that you should find a place to meditate. A place where you feel at ease, where you feel inspired, or just a place that is quiet. For me Winchester Cathedral was a fantastic place to go to, whether during the day or night. I always found it easier to talk to God there, I could focus my mind better on him. Of course God meets with us everywhere, and there is nothing special with the Cathedral, but places such as these can just help us focus, and allow us to clear our minds and can be a real blessing.
So in conclusion, university is a big step and change in one’s life, and it isn’t necessary easy. There will certainly be ups and downs, but is it worth it? For me personally, it was. It helped me build up my confidence, meet other people and learn so many lessons that I don’t think I would have learned anywhere else. University however, is not the be all and end all, you should not feel forced to go or feel it’s what everyone does so you should to. The life at university is not for everyone and no one should ever be ashamed for not going. However if you do go, then pray, and walk with the Lord, and who knows what might happen!