The curtain closes on my second term at university. I figured that now would be a good time to reflect a bit on what has gone on these last twelve weeks as Nottingham has made the gradual transition from being the strange place in the midlands in which every day brings something new to deal with to being somewhere I’m already growing attached to, a real home away from home.
From that point of view, it’s amazing what difference a term makes. At this point at the end of last term I was more than ready to come home. Not that the first term had been bad, but simply because it was a long time to spend away and I was ready for some familiarity. But just three months down the line it’s Nottingham that feels familiar and it’s the thought of being at home for a month that seems strange.
It has surprised me how quickly and how sharply this change has occurred. If I look for a reason for it, however, I can quickly put my finger on something. Undoubtedly the biggest factor in settling in so easily this term has been my Nottingham church, Trent Vineyard. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into me blowing the trumpet of one particular church, but for me, personally, Trent has been such a massive factor in my growing attachment to Nottingham. I’ve been able to get stuck in really easily, I’ve had a lot of time invested in me and it’s somewhere that I already feel valued, which may seem strange at first given that it’s such a big church. One thing that springs from this is the highlighting of the real benefit there is to getting involved in a church community. It’s hard to avoid clichés when talking about this, so I’ll just finish this section by saying that without the church I would feel far more detached at university.
I guess another aspect that’s relevant to this blog is the way that my relationship with God has changed during my time at university. In Britain, university is often the place you spend your final couple of years as a teenager and so it seems appropriate for me to talk about this experience in a Christian context, given the name of my blog! In all honesty there are elements of the university experience that are still challenging for me. Being woken up by screaming guys at five in the morning is never going to become a pleasant experience, and I have to admit that I still really struggle with the alcohol-fuelled social aspect of the student existence. And although there are opportunities to talk about God with people, I still wonder if I’m being as effective as I could be (note: this is not me fishing for sympathy in any way, this is simply my reflection on how things have gone).
But with all that in mind I do feel that I’ve become closer to God than I have been in a long, long time this term. Over the course of the semester he has closed and opened doors in the perfect places at the perfect time and there have been several instances, especially in the last few weeks, where I’ve been able to see him working more clearly than I have in a long time. Also, for the first time I can remember, Lent has actually worked in encouraging me to spend more time with God in prayer (though I still need to get a lot better at reading the Bible regularly). It’s become easier to trust in what God’s doing and also easier to talk to the Christians around me about what’s been going on. In general, I do think that I’ve made some progress this term, and that’s always a good thing to be able to say.
The next challenge is keeping that up into the month at home, when I’m around different people (fewer people) and doing different things, as revision starts to mount up and the exam period looms closer and closer, despite still seeming a long way off at the moment. There’s no point making progress one month if you lose it all in the next. And of course, there are always ways to make further progress. Sitting back doesn’t help anyone with this sort of thing. Overall, though, this term has been amazing. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a three month stretch so much. So I guess the only things left to do are thank God and look forward to the next three months!