Written by Hannah Steele
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of St Nic’s.
I want to share some advice and experiences of my first year at university. I think university is a pivotal time where you are finding out about yourself and defining who you are. I wanted to grow in my faith rather than just going along with the flow and seeing where life took me. Three questions I thought about before coming to university helped me to have an action plan.
1. How do I make friends and settle in quickly?
One of the best things I did was to sign up for the ‘Freshaway weekend’ put on by the Christian Union for freshers the week before starting university. It was intense with lots of chats and games but gave me support for when I started university. It was great to encourage one another to go to church from day one. A small group of us went ‘church searching’ together which made it a lot less intimidating.
Sign up to serve. I joined the tea and coffee team as it was a great way to meet lots of people after the service and practically serve them. Ask where the church needs help, e.g. tea and coffee team, kids work, or sound and lighting. Serving on a team means meeting people and I felt more integrated into the church getting to know people from all different kinds of backgrounds (drop us an email here if you’re interested in serving at St Nic’s!).
Get into a community. St Nic’s offers Communities which are a group of people that look to support each other by having a bible study and then sharing the gospel with their local community. I joined Beacon to challenge myself to help with ‘Night Church’ and talk/serve tea and coffee to people in the city. This was another great way to get to know different people within the church and feel part of a family. (Find out more about St Nic’s Communities here.)
2. How do I grow in my faith?
Choose a church quickly. That enabled me to grow over the year and choosing fairly quickly helped me to settle in. There are so many churches in Nottingham and you could spend the whole year just hopping between churches to try and find that perfect church. The main thing is to choose a church with solid Bible teaching where you feel comfortable. The church should feel like a family and I have loved going on a Sunday, feeling as though I was coming home, it is always the highlight of my week.
I chose St Nic’s because of the community and the great opportunities for students such as student hub, student tea, home from home and mentoring. I have particularly enjoyed having a mentor, someone older in the church who could help to encourage and support me to grow in my faith.
3. How do I reach out to others and share my faith?
I realised that there were going to be so many opportunities at university to get to know different people and share our lives together as we lived in halls. Fortunately, I was on a half catered scheme where during the week I was catered for and then at the weekends we had to cook for ourselves, which personally was the best of both worlds. During the week I go to dinner with various people and get to know them, this was also where most of our deep conversations about Christianity occurred – sharing food together. One of the best things was making the most of this opportunity, even if it means setting a time which you go to dinner with hall friends and making sure no one is left out. At the weekends my flat decided to share cooking together. Apparently this was quite unusual. However sharing a meal, even once a week, makes a real difference and helps build community.
I also was challenged to look for ways to serve others, for example offering to wash up my flatmates’ stuff or taking out the bins or cleaning the flat. My flatmates were surprised to see someone offering to do menial chores and this again created an atmosphere of community and made it feel like a family rather than just people living individually in a flat together. Another idea to build community in halls is to invite people over for a games night or just having a Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen or your room which generates a space where people can come together, even if it is just singing your favourite Disney song together!
I was nervous about telling other people that I am a Christian and sharing my faith with them. It doesn’t have to be difficult and can be as simple as saying you went to church on Sunday when your hall friends ask you what you did at the weekend. I decided to invite my non-Christian friends to Christian events and even church services such as the carol service (free food is a great student magnet!). I was surprised at how open my friends were to trying something new. I realised that even if people said, ‘no’, it was a conversation starter and we could still enjoy each other’s company despite our differences.
My final advice would be: don’t just go with the flow. Figure out who you are and take some time to think about your core values. Build a good support network of Christian friends whom you can rely on, or even ask a close friend from home to make you accountable and check up to see how your faith is developing.
Start university with intention and enthusiasm.