Freshers’ Week at University

Well, here I am: blogging from university. That seems a little strange. Because the last day and a half has been little clearer than a dusty whirlwind, I don’t actually have any sort of coherent theme or idea to write about. What you’re getting instead is a jumble of my thoughts about this next stage of my life splurged onto a Word document. I can only hope that you’ll find something interesting in here…however, this may turn out to be a load of rubbish, and if it is (and I’ve allowed myself to post it) then I apologise.

So this is it. I’m living away from my parents for the first time in my life; living in halls with 200 people my own age, with thousands of people across the university’s three city campuses (campi?) in the same situation. I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t a little overwhelming. The storm of new information, faces and names is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. This isn’t just like starting secondary school or sixth form, because there you probably already know a few people and you don’t have to live with them. Here you’re very lucky if you knew anyone beforehand and you’re living with everyone. I suppose the closest thing to it would be starting boarding school, but as I’ve never done that, it’s not really a helpful comparison.

Part and parcel of meeting all these new people is that you want to impress. You don’t want to alienate these guys on your first day and find yourself a loner for the next three years of your life. People were always saying to me that at university, you can really be who you want to be, you can completely reinvent yourself, and, whilst I can’t really imagine doing that myself, I can see how it would be possible. It’s a very strange social environment.

It’s also a hard environment to be a Christian in. I’ve found it very hard to talk to people about my faith (partly because most conversations with people you’ve just met don’t really go further than talking about your course). I’m not going to lie, I’m ashamed about this. Back in secondary school, sharing my faith was one of the most natural things in the world; I had endless discussions about it. But here, I’m finding it much tougher. I don’t really know how, but today I managed to stumble upon two Christian guys, one of whom I recognised from back home anyway. Both of them are looking at going to local churches and both of them are keen to join the Christian Union with me. I can only thank God for this because otherwise it was a freakish coincidence that brought them into my path.

Little things like that have actually made a big difference. Although I love the campus I’m on, the subject I’m studying (English) is perfect for me and the people are all really nice, the one thing you can’t seem to escape is alcohol. I don’t drink, and I do everything in my power to avoid clubbing (I was conveniently in my room today as this evening’s tickets were selling out rapidly downstairs). This makes things a bit awkward. You might think me naïve, or a killjoy for saying this, but it saddens me (though it doesn’t surprise me) that the first week of university is all about getting hammered. It’s like the only thing you gain from being more independent is the ‘freedom’ to annihilate your liver without your parents knowing/caring. I just don’t get it, but from the conversations I’ve heard, I know that people don’t understand why someone like me wouldn’t want to go clubbing. It works both ways.

This is a source of frustration for me, perhaps my only one so far, but I know that there is an outlet here if I become a little more courageous. I’m not really achieving anything by staying in and not drinking if I don’t pluck up the courage to tell people why…and I’m finding that hard. I know there is a great opportunity to talk to people about God here, and I know that if I have the faith to do so then he will honour that and allow me to talk well, but that doesn’t stop it being less hard.

I guess my short time here so far has been nothing if not an eye-opener. There is such a diversity of diversity (yes, you read that right) here that I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning new things. I am thankful for the people that God’s already placed around me, and I know that there is so much that I can do as a Christian on this campus. Even something as simple as writing this post has given me some encouragement, as I’ve seen my own hands typing the things that I need to do over the next week.

It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be awesome seeing God move.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. cjrob111 says:

    Hi Ben. I’d heard you were blogging but it wasn’t till today I found you via Kirsten’s blog.
    What a great post. No way would I have shown the ability for self reflection at your age as I arrived at uni.
    Do remember this is very early days and, as you’ve already found, not everyone wants to conform to the shallow drinking culture (be they Christian or otherwise). The mere fact you are prepared to stand up and be counter-cultural is a strong witness without saying. I will pray that people around you will want to know why – and ask you. Chris <

    1. bengarry says:

      Thanks Chris,

      Ever since writing this post I’ve had so much encouragement from everyone who’s mentioned it too me. It’s been a long week, but it has also been very enjoyable and I’ve met a lot of great people 🙂

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