Heading off to Uni?
In retrospect, sausages and Yorkshire puddings for breakfast was a dreadful choice.
Nevertheless, this is the situation I found myself in on a September morning in 2015. I was about to start life as a Politics student at the University of East Anglia, and the nerves had set in. I wasn’t feeling very well prepared.
Now, if you’re reading this and thinking “oh it’s fine, I’m not feeling nervous” - neither was I. I’d spent the whole summer eagerly awaiting the big day where I would head down to Norwich and move into my halls of accommodation, but as the day had approached, I’d found myself getting more worried.
The big trip to IKEA, the trip to Wilko. With every passing day in early September, there was one fewer friend at the pub. Another pal off to start their adventure, and my own now felt close.
I can’t even really tell you why I was nervous. I’d articulated to my Mum, clumsily, that perhaps I was nervous about my flat not liking me, or making no friends, or not enjoying my course. But as I ate my truly bizarre breakfast on the day of days, I felt dwarfed by the enormity of what lay before me.
When Moses is called by God in Exodus 3, he doesn’t feel very well prepared.
His initial protest is a plain one - “Who am I to do all this?”. Moses has grown up in Pharaoh's household having been born a Hebrew. He does not know his parents by birth. After killing a man, Moses flees to the desert. When God calls him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, Moses is not a man who has a strong sense of self. If you feel like you’re not totally sure of who you are ahead of your move to university, God speaks to you as he replies to Moses.
God tells the man who does not know himself, “I know you”.
"But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you, and this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
As the enormity of the task ahead of him prompts Moses to probe Yahweh, God reassures him by affirming that he isn’t going alone.
After my parents helped me unpack some of my stuff, they hit the road. I remember sitting in the chair at my desk, gazing out the window, pondering that this was it.
Thankfully, over the course of my freshers week, my nerves eased. My flatmates were friendly, I enjoyed my first lectures, and the adrenaline rush of activity made me forget I was ever nervous in the first instance.
I was a man who was not prepared. I’d coasted through the long, post-A Level summer enjoying myself and expecting my relaxed nature to carry me right onto campus. That did not happen.
University is, for a young person, likely to be the most significant life event they have ever experienced. The total newness of the environment, a newfound independence, and a whole new list of responsibilities and expectations mean that preparation is, when you think about it, vital.
My anxiousness, I think, was born out of a fear of what I did not know. Or, in other words - I was unprepared.
Fusion’s Student Linkup Box contains a number of carefully crafted resources that seek to prepare young people for life at university.
Confession time - I had one of these. I purchased it at Soul Survivor Week and had enjoyed reading through the Student Alphabet. What I had neglected to read however, was the Student Linkup Sessions.
In all sincerity, I believe that if I had completed the four sessions contained within that book, either with my youth group or someone at church, I would have felt very different as I faced down those sausages and Yorkshire Puddings. I would have still felt ill afterwards, but that’s related to my woeful choice of breakfast.
Now I work for Fusion all these years later, I’m familiar with the box and its contents and have led over a hundred young people through the Student Linkup sessions. My favourite question to ask at the start of those sessions is simply, “What one word best describes how you feel about starting university?”.
We get a number of responses, but the two most common seem to be “excited” and “nervous”. I can spot myself in both of these answers. I had the excitement, but as I learned closer to moving day, there were real nerves too.
Could you start a conversation with your youth pastor, church leader, or your mates about the progression to university?
The God of Moses is the God of the student. Just as He tells Moses he knows him and will be with him, he says the same to those going to university.
The importance of community
Moses isn’t going alone, because God is with him, but he’s also got others with him. After Moses expresses doubt that he will be able to effectively articulate himself, God says his brother will be there to help.
“What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.”
God is calling you to a place, but he’s also calling you to a community. A community of other Christians on campus, perhaps, but a community of Jesus-believers in His Church? Absolutely.
As you set out on the adventure ahead of you, there’s nothing more valuable to have underneath you than the firm foundation of a solid church. For the practical, emotional, and spiritual support on offer, finding a church at university is the most important thing you can do.
Our Student Linkup app has connected students and churches for ten years. By entering in your details and university location, you can see a map of all the local churches, accommodating for different styles and preferences.
I found my church at university on the app, and knew it was where I wanted to go even before I scoffed those Yorkshire Puddings.
I stayed at that church for four years. I found friends, confidants, and opportunities to lead that have led me to the position I now find myself in. It was the single best thing about my university experience.
If I can leave you with just one bit of advice before you start university in September - find a church, go every Sunday, and see what happens.
Sam Brown is a Student Mission Developer for Fusion Movement. Sam had his life transformed by stepping into a leadership role at his church in his final year of university. He is committed to helping churches raise up other student leaders to share the transformational power of Jesus Christ.
Sam Brown, 25/09/2022