"You'll make friends," they said. "You'll be just fine."
Coming to college I'll admit I was scared. I was afraid I wasn't going to be like anyone else, terrified that everyone was going to see me as a "Jesus Freak". Faith has always been very important to me, and I knew my beliefs were going to be challenged moving to a big university. High school was hard enough. I was judged based on the way I acted around other people and known as the goody-two-shoes girl who never had any fun.
They were wrong. I had fun. I had friends. I was just different. I was on fire for Jesus.
In almost no other setting are so many strangers thrown together at once to get to know each other so quickly. The first few weeks of college were tough for me. Though I was excited to start getting involved on campus, I didn't really know where to start. The large classrooms intimidated me, and I was overwhelmed trying to balance school, work, and extracurriculars. Attending a largely secular school, I am in the minority. I had to seek out on-fire Christians. I had to display my faith and feel comfortable being vulnerable around others. If there is one piece of advice I have for any incoming freshman seeking places where fellow Christians will be, it is to visit a church the first week you arrive on campus. Just try it out. Trust me. It'll be the best decision you'll make.
Finding my church home away from home has made my college experience so much easier and much more enjoyable. No matter if it is meeting up on Wednesday nights for worship or joining in on the Sunday service, I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who share the same beliefs and values as I do. It seems like the more friendly and approachable I appeared, the more comfortable people felt talking to me. As someone who has struggled with self-confidence and doubt, finding people to share my story and talk about my faith with placed me in an uncomfortable spot. I was forced to get out of my comfort zone in order to speak about my beliefs. Thankfully, the loving church family has encouraged me to grow individually and spiritually in order to live out God's plan for my own life. Not only am I involved with the church through the media team, but I also have a new job lined up for this summer to serve with a mission camp in a different state! Who knew what doors God would open for me when I attended that welcome service on the first day of college?
If you're searching for a group of like-minded Christian friends, you must be open about your faith. If you strive to shine for Christ and speak openly about Him, people will see your heart. One of my goals is to start bringing up my faith in conversations more. While it is sometimes scary to bring up religion in small-talk, you never know who you might be a witness to opening a new door for an unbeliever. Sitting down to pray with others goes a long way as well. No matter what they say or how they react, God will be there with you, and He is still planting seeds for a fruitful future. Seek out open opportunities for conversations to make faithful friends.
"What you learn in the context of the diverse community will also provide you with the tools to continue living in the fullness of God's culture-creation, intentionally pursuing God's heaven lived out on earth well after your college years are finished." — Katelin Hansen