Dear Miriam

If you could write a letter to yourself as you started uni, what would you say?

Dear Miriam,

Well done for boiling the kettle first and bringing that massive box of biscuits to share on move-in day. Start as you mean to go on, decide to culture-set family. Wearing that bobble hat inside all the time did make your housemates think you were a surfer though. That comes back to bite you.

You’re going to want to leave uni about a month in. Don’t. I know the xenophobic attacks in Africa that happened whilst you were out there feel a much more pressing issue than sitting in seminars about Shakespeare. But stay. You’ll realise that mission is where your two feet are and not exclusive to overseas trips.

There are loads of amazing local churches you could be part of. Pick one before Christmas, and settle in a church before you take on Christian leadership roles. You got some bad advice about “church hopping whilst you have lots of choice” but commitment and family is much better theology than pick and mixing services. Get support, get leadership, get accountable before you start leading others, and you’ll find that in the local church. February was a bit late. Good idea to choose somewhere you felt your housemates would feel most comfortable in though, that turned out to be the case.

Dad will tell you “don’t go for a first, get a 2.1 and carry on doing all the stuff you love outside of your degree” and he is right. You end up learning so much through church leadership (this is where you discover you’re actually a leader, and that you can preach in church and what an evangelist even is by the way!) Go to more football training. Get out, even though it’s wet and freezing. The prison theatre thing ends up being one of the best things you do. Try watch your busyness and be ruthless in saying “no”; you can end up in way too many Christian meetings. Learning not to be a people-pleaser and how to manage your time is one of the most important things uni teaches you.

Some hard stuff is going to happen at home whilst you’re living away. Brace yourself and trust Jesus. Visit your sister more. Oh and it will be a mistake to have mum come stay with you in halls. A very funny mistake, for which your housemates will apologise, especially for their home-made banners.

What starts during your student years ends up shaping your destiny, your job, where you live, everything. When you start hearing about something called “prophetic evangelism” run with it. When you learn what accountability and mentoring is, pursue it fully. When you realise God might be asking you to commit to work with students beyond uni even though it’s not a normal or “proper” career, don’t be afraid. And when you get asked to help lead the church, don’t let anyone make you feel disqualified because you are young.

Enjoy what’s about to happen. You’ll make friends for life. You will actually enjoy each year of your degree more than the last and you won’t ever be bored. Look out for the broken glass on your first night out, one of the girls will step on it and that won’t go well so see if you can find it and move it first! And you seriously should have learnt from your friends how to cook better, they’re amazing at it, and your ‘experiments’ did not go well. Please branch out from omelettes. Don’t run with the tinned pears and custard idea.

Love, Miriam

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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