When I came to university I remember thinking that this was a fresh start, where I can kiss goodbye to all the mistakes of my adolescence and become the person I wanted to be. I had an idea of who that was, but to be honest, like most 19 year olds I was still figuring it out.
I was scared because I had heard rumours of what university was like; basically an extension of Sixth Form except with more promiscuity, more clubs and more hard core drinking games. Now I enjoy going out, and to my shame I’m a sucker for the dance floor, especially when I hear some old school RnB! But I knew that I had previously joined in with the drinking culture and made unwise choices that didn’t reflect who I was in Jesus.
I was scared because I knew I didn’t want to compromise in order to make friends. Now on the other side of university, I can safely say that you don’t have to. I’m a firm believer that we are constantly being transformed to be more Christ like, and I have found that this happens through our small, everyday decisions to follow him and not the crowd. So my first question to students is: who do you want to be? Do you want to make decisions that put you on a path to knowing God more deeply and profoundly?
I was excited to come to London to experience all that the big city has to offer. All the quirky cafes, roof top bars, city farms, and museums that you never even knew existed, situated in distant lands off the DLR. My advice to any newcomer to London, or even if you’ve lived here your whole life; London still has more to offer you! Research what’s happening this weekend in London and invite your friends along. It’s much easier to explain why you don’t want to spend your time getting wrecked when you’ve formed a friendship eating street food from Portobello or Borough Market. I found people were ready to respect you for living out what you claimed to believe.
University is the time to make some lifelong friends and I would hugely recommend throwing yourself into community. Be that your church Connect Group, your halls friends and your course friends. You are going to be overwhelmed by the amount of people you meet. Some you will click with instantly and others you won’t. One thing I spent too much time doing was trying to have too many friends. You can’t spread yourself too thinly, and additionally, you can’t please everybody. Invest in those people who respond well to you; not everyone will agree with your lifestyle and may be hostile as a result. A verse from Matthew helps illustrate this point.
“As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet” (Matthew 10:12-14)
I started to pray when I made new friends, praying whether this was a friendship I should invest in. Often the answer came by asking for opportunities to develop the friendship further and making myself available to respond when the opportunities came up. This fuelled my prayer life and I got some defining God filled friendships as a result, with Christians and non-believers. So my last question to those at university would be, do you want the university experience everyone expects, and most people have, or do you want to be surprised?