College has been some of the most anticipated years of my life; adults have teased of these glory days with their memorable stories and repetitive dialogue of "these will be the best years of your life." While I'm making some sweet memories I will remember throughout my life, I've made a conscious effort to not let the prospect of "the real college experience" interfere with my faith. Going into college, I knew I wanted to get involved in the local Catholic church and hold myself more accountable for my faith. While many of my peers have given up their religion and beliefs in order to make more time for superficial things or make themselves more appealing, I have found that actively participating in the church has enriched my college experience and has made me an overall better student.
One of the biggest things I've learned about college is that it pushes students to be individuals and work hard for their personal goals. While working hard for these things is invaluable, many students find themselves so tied up in their own works that they forget to consider the rest of the world functioning around them. Being involved in the church has allowed me to step outside of my own little world and reach out to the people around me. Instead of solely working on my own self-improvement, my faith has given me the opportunity to help people in the local community and dedicate some of my time to bettering the lives of others. Not only does this break up a demanding academic schedule, but it also helps me find more meaning in my everyday doings. Running through the motions of homework and studying can become mundane, so taking time to work alongside others helps me find fulfillment even during a very self-centered time of my life.
My faith has also led me to communities within the church where the people around me share the same beliefs and values as I do. While meeting new people from different backgrounds and perspectives is important, coming back to space where I can open up about what's going on in my life with people who can understand me on a spiritual level is refreshing. My church friends ground me in my beliefs and reinforce God's love in a way a lot of my others friends can't. Having this kind of community has provided me with the support I need during the highs and lows of college, and I've found comfort in knowing that I have a group of people I can turn to whenever I need them.
Above all, my faith keeps me grounded and calm during stressful situations. Remembering that my efforts are for God and His plan relieves the pressures of a competitive university. While other students work towards perfection under high levels of stress, I have the peace of knowing that my future is in God's hands and He is welcoming to my shortcomings and imperfections. Many students are self-glorifying in the ways they sacrifice so much of themselves for good grades so that they can conform to an image of what society deems successful, and this way of living is draining and meaningless. While I may become overwhelmed and confused in the midst of hard times, staying faithful has always proven to give me more clarity over time.
Keeping my faith has transformed my college experience in ways I never could have imagined. With all things considered, many incoming freshmen still choose to let go of their beliefs since they don't want to get trapped in a faith bubble and miss out on all the fun parts of college, but my faith is just another aspect of my life that I balance among the many other things I do. To give it all up would put a lot of weight on my own shoulders, and that is a burden I cannot carry alone. I would highly encourage any college student to consider becoming more involved in their faith, as those who pursue it will surely reap the benefits.