In ‘The World Beyond Your Head’, philosopher Matthew Crawford challenges the idea that we understand ourselves better by diving inwards. Instead, he encourages us to dive outwards, arguing that knowing our situation – in a place, in a culture, and in history – is essential for us.
This meshes with the Bible’s own vision for humanity. We’re designed to be God’s own possession. We belong to a global people through a shared humanity and, if we’re Christians, to a church through our shared faith. We also belong to a shared place. God has established us alongside others in the towns and cities in which we dwell.
Starting at university in a new city, you might be left wondering who you are in this new place and how you fit in. Here are five suggestions for activities that you can do alongside new friends and flatmates. They’ll help you learn to love your new town, and grow the sort of friendships where you can share your life and your faith.
University towns are teeming with culture.
When I first moved to Bournemouth, I had no idea that it had such a long and varied history. Early settlers here planted pine trees along all the major avenues that lead to the beach. Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, lived here – and you can see where the Isle of Wight once connected to mainland Britain.
Your town is waiting to be discovered by you and your friends.
Understanding your town’s past will help you better understand your place in history and make for a fun afternoon out. Maybe there’s a city wall to explore, a pub with a notable past, or a famous fish and chip shop you simply can’t miss.
Joel told me his story. “We made a challenge of walking the whole of Southampton’s city walls,” he said. “It’s got shops and pubs and all sorts sticking out of it. It’s also got the docks where some of the world’s biggest cruise ships dock. It was cool to be reminded the world is bigger than our flat. We would deliberately get lost and try to find our way back without taking the same road twice!”
Become distinguished professors of the finest eateries!
Work together to find the best café, pub, peri chicken and pizza establishment. Not only will it be useful down the line when the revision-time cravings arrive, it’s a guaranteed way to make friends.
Ioana shared, “We rated the best drink at every café for taste, texture, presentation and special features. It created plenty of fun discussion, and I was able to give the gift of the perfect tea to all my newer friends and people I met through the CU. It was a small way of passing God’s love on to them.”
“A couple of us from the Christian Union joined with good friends from our course and formed a pub team,” said Tim. “We weren’t the best, but we stuck at it because we loved hanging out together. Whatever happened, we’d gather as a 6 for the pub quiz every week”.
Your local may not yet have restarted its weekly quiz, but there are other ways you can become champions. Card games, board games and digital quizzes can be a great way to connect and share memories.
After that, the pub awaits.
We love the dazzling views of the Lake District or the beaches of the south coast – but did you know that any green space can be great for our mental health, fitness, creativity and overall sense of wellbeing?
One study found that, when looking at photos of landscapes, we feel happy and relaxed if they portrayed a green space or body of water, however small.
“We’d often take a walk out on to the South Downs surrounding Sussex Campus to take in the amazing views and get away from Uni for a bit,” said Jo. “If we were feeling a bit more adventurous, we’d get on the bus to Severn Sisters to do some bigger and even more beautiful walks.”
Sadly, many students never truly feel like a resident of the place where they live and study. One way to overcome such a feeling is to embrace a regional tradition.
In other words, gather your flat and take part in whatever wonderful thing your region does best.
In Birmingham, exploring the canals (more than Venice!) and seeing the city from top of City Library is a must. Climb the cathedral tower in Durham, or check out the iconic music venues in Leeds, Manchester or Liverpool.
Wherever you are there will be lots that the local embrace. To appreciate what they love will lead you to pleasure unique to your new place.
Who knows, perhaps this may just be the platform needed for drawing alongside your friends in faith and beginning to share with them?
By clicking any link on this page you are giving your consent for us to set cookies.