Moving to university can be a daunting experience. There’s excitement for a new chapter but there are nerves and fears about the unknown that comes with moving away from family and friends to go somewhere you don’t know many people.
I go to University of Ulster in Coleraine which, now that I’m here, I see was God’s plan for me all along. However, the plan that I had for myself looked a little different. I was very indecisive about what I wanted to do after school. I knew I wanted to go to university but I had no clue what course I wanted to do. It wasn’t until around Christmas time of upper sixth that I decided I wanted to go down the route of food science. I applied to go to Queens University Belfast, as this is where most of my friends also wanted to go and I’d heard lots about their CU (Christian Union). So I put Queens as my first choice and Coleraine as my second choice, as it was the next closest university. I hadn’t given Coleraine much thought — I assumed I’d either go to Queens or have to take the year out to repeat exams.
It was on results day that I found out I hadn’t met the grades for Queens but that I’d been accepted by Coleraine. At the time I remember feeling a strange sense of peace. I’d previously thought that if I didn’t get my Queens offer I would have been upset and anxious, but on the day I felt God give me a sense of peace. I knew that ultimately my life is in his hands and that wherever I ended up he would be there with me. I realised then that up until that point I hadn’t included God in my plan, it was me that chose Belfast, that had been my plan.
I prayed about going to Coleraine, I began to get excited about the opportunities it would bring and the people I’d meet. I knew that no matter what happened, God is sovereign, he is in control of everything so that all I needed was to wholeheartedly trust him. I signed up for preterm (a weekend at Castlewellan castle run by the university CU’s where you meet other Christians who are going to the same university). I met some fab people at preterm which made the transition to university so much easier because I already knew people going who I could go to CU with. It made the thought of moving away from home easier.
Even though I’ve only been studying at Coleraine for a short time, God has given me so many opportunities to serve him. Moving into a flat of girls I didn’t know was scary but God blessed me with a flat of class girls. Through getting to know them and building relationships with them I’ve had loads of opportunities to talk about God and my faith and about what I believe, while building genuine friendships with them. ‘Night Vision’ on Tuesday nights is where we meet at midnight at someone’s house where we look at a Bible passage or hear someone’s testimony about how God has been working in their life, we sing praise and pray for the night ahead as we go to serve tea, coffee and soup to people outside a nightclub in Portstewart. This allows us to chat to people and start conversations with them about God and the Gospel. Night Vision has had a huge impact on me as God has so evidently been working and has allowed me to have incredible conversations about him with people.
My main advice for moving to university is to give your all to God, surrender your plans to him and be bold for him. Get completely stuck into uni life, wherever you are, build friendships and relationships with those around you and don’t be afraid to stand firm in your faith. Get involved in the CU there as it will build you in your faith being around others who are on fire for God and will let you encounter God as he works in those around you. God is with you through everything, no matter where you end up going God will lead you, so don’t be afraid but be excited for the opportunities you will get and how God can work through you.
A passage God has placed on my heart over the past few months as I’ve been at university is Mark chapter 12, about the Greatest Commandment. Mark 12:28-31 – ‘One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” ’ In this passage it talks about giving God our all, God isn’t satisfied with having just part of our love or us being half-hearted about our relationship with him, we are to love him with our all, devoting every aspect of our lives to him. This means telling others about him when we meet new people at university, being firm in what we believe when it means we’ll have to stand out from the crowd and living as a witness, from those who we live with in halls to those on our course and who we chat to around campus. The second part of the passage tells us how to witness, as it says to love our neighbours. Be bold for God and don’t be afraid to talk about him and how he’s changed your life. The most loving thing we can do for someone is to share the hope and peace that we have because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.