For many of us, starting university will involve moving away from home to somewhere completely new. This can be a daunting thought for some, particularly if we are leaving friends and family. But God has called us to particular places, to be salt and light in the cities and towns that He has put us in. To be in the world means to enjoy the culture and people and places that God has given us, so here are a few ideas of how we can be doing that in new university towns.
It’s great to get into town, particularly if you are at a campus university where it can be easy to stay in that bubble. Find places that you can go with friends and get to know your favourite coffee shops, pubs, takeaways, restaurants and leisure activities. Make a point of exploring the town together when you arrive so when things get a little busier, you already know the best and most fun places. Perhaps there is a tour of the town you can go on with your flatmates in welcome week or, if not, perhaps you can make one yourselves!
It can also be helpful to find places you like to go on your own too. University is a wonderful time of meeting new people and trying new things, but that can sometimes get a little overwhelming. Getting outside and exploring the nearby parks and countryside can be a great way to get a bit of space and is good for your wellbeing. Not to mention enjoying the amazing views, whether that’s the Scottish Highlands, the glorious beaches of the South coast, trekking through the Lake District, marvelling at the Brecon Beacons or finding the hidden gems and secret gardens of your own town.
Another way is to find groups of your own personal interests. Is there a local community sports team you can join? Or a board gaming café or pub quiz? Or a local book club or knitting group? Running clubs or group hiking tours? Choirs or music groups? Theatre clubs or dancing schools? Perhaps you can look for local volunteering opportunities as a way of meeting people and giving back to your community.
Whatever your interest, see if there’s something for you in the community where you can get involved and get to know people you might otherwise never get to meet.
See if your city or town has any social media groups you can join to get local news, information and general stories from around town.
There are lots of ways you can meet people outside the student world but most of the time, it takes being intentional.
Getting stuck into a local church is a great way of meeting people from all ages and stages of life. Even if you have never been before, find a home away from home by trying a church, explore big questions, get out of the student bubble, and enjoy lovely home cooked dinners with all sorts of people. Lots of churches will have adopt-a-fresher schemes, student specific groups, meals and more! It’s a great way to get to know your community and the quicker you settle somewhere, the quicker it will feel like home.
Check out this great article on helping you find a church where you can settle.
Find out what events your city or town is putting on, whether it’s the big concerts and theatre shows of the city, or local town markets, art exhibitions or food festivals.
Towns will often put on events around certain points in the calendar – firework displays, Christmas light switch on, or music festivals.
Find out what your town is known for – maybe it’s the big cheese rolling festival in Gloucester or Burns Night celebrations in Edinburgh. Have a look and get involved!
Get stuck into local culture and history. Find out about your town – who has lived there in the past? What legends have walked these paths before you? What is this town famous for? What is its history?
Be proud of where you are, embrace the regional traditions, local cuisine and stories of people past and present. Who knows, when people come to visit, you could try yourself as a tour guide?
It’s great to get as stuck in as possible and really get to know where you are, but sometimes, the easiest way to feel at home is to bring a little bit of home with you.
Bring some of your home comforts whether that’s decoration, fairy lights, posters or photos of family and friends, house plants or Lego sets. If you’re arty, why not make a photo wall that you can add to over the year with new experiences, friends and places as you go? Are there home comforts that could bless your whole flat? Sharing a game of Mario Kart on the Switch or flexing your latte art to your flat with your coffee machine?
Whatever it is, we hope you can feel right at home wherever you go. By the end of your time at university, maybe you’ll be a proper local!
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