Freedom and Fear
According to UCAS, around 664,190 students will be starting university this autumn. But why are 37% of 18 year olds in England choosing university as their next step?
For many, it’s the promise of a higher-paying graduate job and better job security in ever-increasing economic uncertainty. Or perhaps it’s the unbridled opportunity that university offers to study something they love, to learn from the best as they develop skills and pursue extra-curricular interests. For others, university is a first taste of independence, of living away from home and managing their own finances, lifestyle and friendships.
Students start university, then, with a range of expectations. From day one, university promises the chance to reinvent or “find yourself”, to make friends for life, and to load up your CV with the qualifications and extra curricular responsibilities that will guarantee you your dream job upon graduating.
It’s the weight of these expectations that makes freshers’ week much more than just a whirlwind of making friends, enrolling on courses, exploring a new city and partying the night away. University, and by extension freshers’ week, feels to many like the foundations of the rest of their lives.
Niv Lobo, CU Staff Worker with Southampton University Christian Union, put it like this at one of their first events of the year.
‘At this time of year in particular you can see it happening, all over the concourse. The kinds of friends people decide they want to make; the clubs and societies they are thinking of joining – they’re deciding what kind of people they really want to be.
Everyone is chasing after something. We’re all looking for the life that satisfies, for the place where the real us really belongs. We’re looking for that moment where everything clicks, and feels right.
There are all kinds of places where we go looking for ourselves. You can go looking on a dance floor. You can go looking at the bottom of a bottle. You can go looking in the library!
And as you go searching for ‘the real you’, here at university you do that with a freedom you may never have had before.’
‘But along with the freedom, there’s also fear. Fear that you don’t really belong here. Fear that you’ll never make friends as good as the ones you left behind. Fear that you’ll never make friends at all! Fear, as you sit in your room, flicking through Facebook and Instagram, that everyone is having the time of their lives while you are not.’
‘How do you make the most of that freedom? How do you deal with all of that fear?’
Knowing first-hand the freedom and fear that comes with being a fresher, SUCU made their freshers’ week events about much more than simply welcoming students to halls or adding numbers to their mailing list. It was an opportunity to share, as Niv put it, ‘something that makes a difference’: knowing Jesus, and in doing so, knowing what it is to be truly loved and to truly belong.
In the freshers’ quest for ‘life to the full’, with so much felt to be riding upon every decision and friendship made, Christian Unions are a voice on campus inviting students to explore something that will actually deliver, far surpassing even the best friendships, career prospects and self-discovery that university promises.
Do you have a university near you? Find out when their freshers’ weeks are and pray for them here.