Suzanna, a student about to start her second year of university in Bristol, questionned her abililty to share her faith with her friends in first year. Despite this, she was bold, shared the reason for her hope and finished her first year with one of her friends giving their lives to Jesus. Here's Suzanna's experience of her first year at university.
The big day came much faster than anticipated. It was the day I had been looking forward to for years. ‘The beginning of the best years of my life' - or so I’d been told countless times. It was the day I moved into my new chapter and new home: university halls. I quickly learnt I had hit the jackpot with my new flatmates: bonding over card games and similar interests, the ‘what are your plans for this weekend?’ question quickly surfaced.
A lump began to form in my throat – was it too early to talk about church and my faith? What would they think? What if it got confrontational? I’ve never felt good at evangelism, but my first year of university has shown me just how open students are to listening and learning more about faith. To my shock, one of my flatmates asked to try out church with me that first weekend!
Finding a church was made so much easier through the Student Linkup app, it meant that I was chatting to my future student worker, Sam, before even arriving to Bristol, feeling so welcome and cared for. Making the decision to settle in a church within the first month of starting university shaped my whole first-year experience in the most positive way. Weekly church services and student-small groups gave me an instant group of friends who could relate to the highs and lows of being a Christian at university; for the rest of the year, these friends walked alongside me, prayed for me, and cheered me on.
"By the end of the year, one of my flatmates had made the decision to follow Jesus..."
I remember sitting across from my student worker on a rainy day in September sharing all my hopes and fears for my first university year. One of my biggest fears was sharing my faith. But by the end of the year, one of my flatmates had made the decision to follow Jesus, and I found myself walking campus on Thursday afternoons sharing Jesus and praying for my fellow first years. I learnt that Jesus must be shared through both actions and words. I learnt that I didn’t have to have it all together for Him to use me or speak through me. I learnt that no matter what, I need Jesus as much as the next person.
As the first set of exams rolled around much quicker than anticipated, I soon realized it was taking me longer than expected to find my feet with the new work-life balance. Surrounded by other students who seemed really settled and having it all together often made me feel overwhelmed and inadequate. What if I still felt homesick at times? What if I found it harder to keep up with the workload? Was I in the right place? These questions of inadequacy were tough to work through, but I learnt throughout the year that it’s more than okay to give yourself some grace! Take your own time to find your feet, to make mistakes, to learn from them and to take things at your own pace.
Through the ups and downs of my first-year experience, there was always someone at my local church I could speak to, pray with or simply hang out with. Not only did I feel so invested in, but the church community encouraged me and challenged me to serve those around me; whether those were my flatmates, course mates, friends or the city at large. Being a student places me in an incredible position to love others well, to be radically generous and to share Jesus with all those I meet – being a first-year didn’t disqualify me from this call, and it doesn’t disqualify you from it either!