Life at uni as a Christian student

Victoria Mason, graduate from the University of Cambridge

I remember being given a book before leaving for university. It was all about going to university and facing all the ways in which your faith would be attacked. It framed university as a place where thriving as a Christian would be difficult. On the one hand that’s helpful to bear in mind, but on the other, being a Christian isn’t about holding onto dear life to your Christian values. For me it was a huge period of spiritual growth, working out what my life with Jesus is like. And yes, Christianity can be exciting! I ended up going to a church that was different from my own background. I grew so much from that; God can do amazing things when you step out of your comfort zone.

Emma Temple, postgraduate at Leeds University

In the summer before I started university I went to the Soul Survivor festival. All the talks and workshops about university life as a Christian gave me visions of attending a fun, vibrant student church, converting all of my flatmates in the first week and using all my spare time to do volunteering.

In those first weeks of university though, it was difficult finding a church that felt like home. It became easy to drift away, although my faith remained strong. There was just so much else to do! Ultimately I’m glad I found the university chaplaincy, where I was part of a student group with SCM that was much more relaxed – a placed I found easier to stay committed to.

Throughout the university experience I have had several conversations with friends about my faith. It’s encouraging when people are interested and accepting of my beliefs. But rather than getting in the way, staying true to my faith has made the whole experience much more enjoyable. Without my circle of friends at the chaplaincy, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to cope with exam stress or the politics of friendships. My faith has kept me grounded and helped keep things in perspective.

Debbie White, postgraduate student at the University of Glasgow

First year of university as a Christian student can be hard, especially because student culture doesn’t lend itself easily to waking up at half nine on a Sunday morning to drag yourself to church! For me, the process was a little bit of trial and error. I spoke to a few of the Christian societies at the Freshers fair, but none of them really appealed. (Note to those of you running stalls: please don’t take people’s numbers then spam them with texts every day!) I tried out a couple of churches but again, none felt like ‘home’. Eventually I found a church I liked, started attending chaplaincy and discovered SCM.
Most of my advice for new students can be summed up in the words of the ever-wise Douglas Adams; ‘Don’t Panic!’ At points, university can be overwhelming and difficult. It might take you a while to find your feet – I found mine through getting involved with as many societies as was humanely possible! The support is there though, whether that’s through friends made in chance encounters, older students in societies, coursemates or support staff, lecturers and chaplains. I loved university so much that I’m going back for a Masters this September – to all new students starting this academic year, good luck, and most importantly, remember to enjoy it!

Lauren Stevens, undergraduate at the University of Chester

Before I started university I was really excited about joining a Christian society. My university has strong Christian foundations and consequently, the Christian community is quite large. I didn’t have many Christian friends at home and I was excited about making friends who I actually had something in common with. However, after some time I realised how different people of one faith can really be and how you can’t make preconceptions of someone based on their beliefs.

To me it often seems like university can influence you to be either more open-minded or more narrow-minded. Sadly, I felt my faith fading away due to the discrimination that I witnessed as a consequence of those who had become more narrow-minded. However, recently I have started to learn that it is possible to be a Christian and have an open mind, partly through SCM, which has demonstrated to me that there are tolerant Christians out there. As a result, I’m hopefully on the path to rekindling my faith again. Too many people have suffered unreasonably due to Christian bigotry and organisations like SCM are what the world really needs to see right now.

Yannick Buditu, graduate from Canterbury University

The one piece of advice I can give is this: try to hold onto your faith. Speaking from personal experience, especially away from home, it’s so easy to become detached from your faith. You need to find somewhere – a group or church – that is comfortable. The main thing is staying true to your faith, whether it’s having conversations with chaplains or friends. University is a place where you can be easily detached because of the lifestyle and the pressures of studying. Initially I didn’t do that in the first couple of years. In the last year I did try to prioritise, which really helped.