Lost and lonely
My first weeks at university were intimidating, overwhelming, and lonely for my faith. I only had a few Christian friends amongst the masses on campus and most of the time we were separated. I found it hard to make meaningful connections with the peers in my classes and couldn’t identify any other Christians to befriend. I desperately wanted a Christian friend so that we could navigate the nuances of university together and find our place in university.
Longing to find my place socially and romantically
Although I knew I didn’t belong in the party scene, I was attracted to the excitement, acceptance, status, and comradery it seemed to give many of my peers. Although I entertained the thought of getting into the party scene, I never partied.
Instead, I gravitated to studying with an attractive girl in my program. As time passed I entertained the possibility of initiating a relationship with her. After all, she was closest to me and showed me the most acceptance. My only hesitation was that she wasn’t a Christian. Even still, the potential relationship seemed like a way to find my place on campus. I never asked her out.
Grasping to find my place academically
I was intimidated by the magnitude of my university workload. It seemed like I was falling more behind in my studies and readings every day. I couldn’t even finish my lab work in the times allotted. I was in constant stress trying to keep up in one class, let alone five. I was worried that I was never going to find my place academically.
As if the workload wasn’t enough stress, some of my professors were outspoken, spouting opinions that rattled my faith. In my first week, my biology professor held up a copy of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ and proclaimed it to be the undisputed truth and the most influential book ever written. It was the first time I had heard such an authoritative affirmation of evolution and a dismissal of my faith. I was struggling to find my place in the ideologies of the classroom.
I wasn’t the only one anxious to find my place
I was so absorbed in my own struggle to find my place at university that I couldn’t perceive my peers were going through the same anxieties. How could I not see it? My peers were also anxious to find their place, socially, romantically, and academically.
In hindsight, knowing what I know now, those that looked like they were fitting in most were often the ones most anxious to find their place. For many of them it meant compromising their morals to please the party crowd, falling madly in love to the neglect of their faith, or studying incessantly to the neglect of all else.
All of these good desires to find my place so easily became ultimate desires within me. And when they offered me a place I felt the pressure to put everything into them, longing to meet my needs for belonging, acceptance, and most of all pride among my peers. None of them would have satisfied an even deeper longing.
I wasn’t aware of my true need
Even though I would have identified myself a Christian that first year, I am sad to confess that I didn’t give any thought or priority to finding my place spiritually at university. I was contemplating finding my place anywhere but in the place that my soul ultimately needed.
Despite my negligence and misdirected focus, God intervened. A few students involved with Power to Change came into two of my classes, both huge lecture halls, to do spiritual surveys. I was caught off guard by their boldness. I was too intimidated to fill out the first survey in my psychology class but I had courage enough to fill one out in my chemistry class. Even though I feared being associated with such radical Christians, I left my contact information. I suppose my longing for spiritual belonging was greater than my fear of being associated with such outspoken Christians.
Faith community was the place
Although I was reluctant to meet with them at first, I found my place among other Christians who valued their faith in Jesus seriously and extended friendship and grace to me. It was really life giving to my faith to find like-minded students who were also wrestling with how to live out their faith on a secular campus. I finally found my place on campus.
How do you think you might struggle to find your place socially, romantically, and academically at university? What pressures may tempt you to compromise your faith in order to find your place? Who will you choose to identify with to find your place on campus? Who will you choose not identify with?
Save yourself a lot of the loneliness and lostness I felt in my first year. Seriously consider finding and connecting to a faith community at your university from the start.
Read more about NEXT, Power to Change’s initiative to help Grade 12s connect to a faith based community in college or university.