When I was in school, I had a history teacher called Mrs Bilby. Mrs Bilby had this thing she used to say about exams, that they were always “the elephant on the horizon”. She’d say this in January or February, and I would laugh it off as classic scaremongering. Fast forward to late-May and early-June however, and I was staring right up at that enormous elephant, frantically trying to cram in every last piece of information about American pioneers or Greek medicine.
Mrs Bilby wanted us to be prepared. Despite the fact that exams seemed miles away in the summer, and thus insignificant, they soon crept up on you - then they consumed nearly every waking thought.
Being prepared is key to managing that “elephant on the horizon”, so that when we are finally peering into its face, we have everything we need to thrive.
At Fusion, we are passionate about getting students ready for university so they can make the most of their time there and beyond. Phoebe did the Preparation for University sessions last year, and is now coming to the end of her first year at Queen Mary University London. Phoebe was guided through the process by her youth worker Dan, and myself - the student worker at her home church of Greyfriars.
“Us university-goers all met as a group and we went through the session material with you and Dan - what’s important to be thinking about, how to find a church, and how to get linked in in a new place.”
The personal stories of the people running the sessions proved to be particularly useful for Phoebe when it came to several issues that had been on her mind.
“The things I found the most useful were the personal stories coming from you and Dan when it came to making friends. Dan was talking about how he found it really hard to make friends, especially as he wasn’t drinking. But you talked about how you had an opposite experience. It was really helpful to hear about Christians going to uni who had had a variety of experiences. There were good practical tips too, like getting to know your flatmates by leaving your door open.”
Hearing some thoughts about finding a church was also a helpful part of the sessions.
“I found it useful to get the perspectives of you and Dan on finding a church. We chatted about how many you should try, thinking about what you’re looking for, and how to use the Student Linkup app.”
The Student Linkup app would prove to be instrumental in assisting Phoebe’s hunt for a new church.
“The Student Linkup app was really great. It was so helpful to have a list of churches around you, and most churches had a bio you could read to see if it’s the kind of place you were looking for. You could also message the churches. I used it for a church I didn’t even end up at but I was welcomed by the student worker who knew I was coming. I settled at Christ Church Spitalfields, where the student worker Ellie again recognised me from the app."
Finding a church in that first term made a big difference in Phoebe’s first year at university.
“It really helped me just by giving me a home in London. I’ve got a lot of friends at church, and I’m also in a midweek group. It is so nice to have a group that you meet every single week, and to meet in a house and sit on a sofa too! We eat together and it’s a great opportunity to study the Bible. We’ve carried on online during lockdown too!”
Finally, Phoebe had this to say to any student who is heading to university in September and thinking about signing up for Fusion’s Preparation for University content online:
“Go for it! The Preparation for University sessions are brilliant at getting you ready and making you think about stuff you’d never even considered. It doesn’t take that much effort to get involved, and can make the prospect of going to university much less daunting!”