Moving out from home can be a stressful time for any individual or family, particularly if you’re an eighteen year old girl starting university. Like most people, beginning this journey of freedom and independence, I maintained that I needed to transfer every item I’d ever owned to my new dorm room… Dad was thrilled. However, in the one or two boxes marked ‘stay at home storage’, I managed to pack up my relationship with God and leave Him behind. For some people this concept might sound absurd; however for others it may feel all too familiar. Having freedom and independence at university requires a measure of responsibility; as a young adult, you are now responsible for maintaining and practising your own faith, and for myself I found this a challenging feat.
When I started university my faith diminished rapidly. Thankfully, although I gave up on God, He showed countless times that he never gave up on me. One day in particular, my friend and I were running particularly low on cash (something which I’m sure you’ll have the delight of experiencing). It was common knowledge around campus that the Christian Union handed out free lunches to all who attended their meetings. So, we gave it a go, and you could say that that ham sandwich changed my life. In the meeting I was reminded how much God loves each of us, and how silly it was to think I needed to separate my life and my faith. God is a part of us from our beginning to our end, through the old times and the new times, and, through the good days and the bad days. Surprisingly, from then onwards, I realised maintaining your faith at university isn’t quite the dilemma that most people imagine it to be, but actually really easy and really good fun.
So here are five tips that worked for me:
First thing to remember, you are Catholic, but this doesn’t change who you are as a person; it only adds to all the wonderful qualities you already possess. So be honest and proud of your faith, most people you meet will be intrigued and respectful, and, it’s definitely true what they say, the friends you make at Uni are your friends for life.
Between going out, socialising and the mountain of work you’ll be drowning under, making time for prayer can take a back seat. However, nearly all universities have an incredible chaplaincy service, with convenient times for students, so making a decision between a few extra hours of kip and Mass, doesn’t have to be an option. Additionally, making yourself known within the chaplaincy and joining faith-based societies really does make a huge difference. You’ll meet tonnes of like-minded people who will help you get involved with events, talks and pilgrimages.
Charity is at the heart of Jesus Christ and at university there are countless activities and volunteering opportunities which you can get involved in. Jesus came to allow each of us to ‘live live to the full’ (John10:10). Therefore, sacrificing your time to help others to achieve a full and better life is a fantastic and incredibly exciting way to show your love of God and others to those around you.
All these previous tips are brilliant for helping to fuel the fire of your faith, but for some people their relationship with God can be private and personal. So it’s great to remember that your life itself gives glory to God and to learn to live as a reflection of Christ with love, compassion and kindness will only strengthen your connection to Him. Using your talents, working your hardest, and, just making the most out of each of the gifts He gave you is what we are made to do.
Most importantly, remember that God loves you when you’re throwing yourself around a filthy club, playing corridor football, ploughing through your second consecutive all-night library session and when you’re cutting the mould off your cheese because there is absolutely NOTHING left in the cupboard.
University is a fantastic experience: I would recommend to anyone. You will share in more friendship, love, mayhem and mischief than most people will in a lifetime. So ‘Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9).