Dear Fresher,

University really is an unusual and unsettling time. An odd limbo in life where you have enough independence without too much responsibility to spoil it. This is my third year heading into this strange indeterminate state of life — here’s a few things I wish I’d known when I was a fresher.

I am an art student, usually elbow deep in some inky concoction, sporting my rather fetching white overalls. It is quite usual that my head is floating around in the sky and perhaps you aren’t as naïve as I was, but be careful to be realistic about uni, it won’t be perfect. I’m sorry to say, but life rarely works out how you expect it will — university is no exception (John 16:33). When I set off for fresher life I had this promise of laughter filled glory years clouding my judgement, when in reality it’s a turbulent time, when you discover how grounded you are, without parents or your home church to be accountable to (Romans 12:21).

God will throw all sorts of curveballs your way — it’s new and it’s scary and there will be things that are difficult. You need to realise that being in university will not suddenly fix all those things in your life. “Be very careful then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:15–16). My fresher friend, have your head screwed on, be ready to run into the arms of your Saviour when things fall apart (Ex. 14:13–14). You are in battle and we must prepare ourselves in wisdom and not be ignorant (1 John 3:13).

Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. (2 Peter 3:17)

Don’t place your joy in the empty promises of this world. “For this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). Time is fleeting and moments are like a vapour, seek out the joy of your Father (Neh. 8:10).  God promises trials, tears and heart-break, but He also promises to hold you when your feet won’t walk, lift your head when your thoughts are heavy and to always be with you. And I promise you that is enough.

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1–2)

University is not for everyone, and that’s okay! If you do not like where you are then lift your feet and move, you are not a tree. Your roots are secure in your Saviour and He will go with you (Is. 45:2). There is no shame in going to uni and realising it’s not where you are supposed to be — I’ve seen too many people go away and think they had to stay somewhere or stick at something that’s not right for them. Just come home, do something else. Don’t make yourself ill by forcing yourself to stay. There is no shame, it happens a lot more than you think.

Give it a chance, apply yourself to whatever it is, there will be a time when it’s hard and those first few weeks are tough in a new place with strange people, so give yourself a chance to settle but if you really feel it’s not right that’s OKAY.

Just get out there, get excited about it! Open your eyes and notice the beauty in the people around you, listen to the sound of God’s creation, marvel in it! Look at the Christians around you, look for Jesus in them, and you will see the glory of the your Creator. Look at the people in your life and see how God is loving them and how they need Him.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:18)

Be careful who you choose to spend your time with, remember people are people, broken, held together only by grace. Everyone is flawed and sometimes your flaws aren’t compatible with others. You are called to love them, you don’t have to like them. But be on your guard over who you allow to speak into your life and influence you. Find people who point you to Jesus.

Do not be misled “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33) 

But in everything, remember no matter what happens your God is LORD. And He is right here, loving you, fighting every day for the parts of your heart that you refuse to give. Walk in the footsteps of the One who created your feet, let Him guide and cherish you, lose your heart to Him and find your peace.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favour in the sight of God. (Prov. 3:3–4)