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OICCU Freshaway train

OICCU Freshaway 2016

By now, term has well and truly started for new university students! Sarah Pickett, a Relay Worker in Oxford, shares her experiences of a pre-term getaway run for students at Oxford University. 

On 21 September, 43 soon-to-be Oxford University freshers sat in a hall in Mid Wales, surrounded by fairy lights, bunting and a lot of small talk. The reason? Freshaway!

This year, OICCU (Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union), following in the footsteps of Cambridge and Durham, hosted their first Freshaway: a getaway for Christian freshers to get to know each other before term starts, and get inspired and encouraged to live and speak for Jesus at university.

Starting university is exciting but it can also be nerve-wracking: a leap into uncharted territory. With many students exposed to new ideas for the first time, often the habits and lifestyle formed in freshers’ week continue for the rest of university. With this in mind, OICCU recognised that equipping freshers to start university well would not only be beneficial to the freshers themselves, but also have a major impact on their mission to the university. And so, Freshaway was born.

We enjoyed a series of talks from Galatians, with Dave McNee (UCCF Team Leader in the South East) reminding us that the gospel of grace is sufficient for all areas of life. I was so encouraged that whilst the world offers guilt for the past and fear for the future, the gospel offers forgiveness for the past and hope for the future. He challenged us that a true understanding of the gospel demonstrates itself in sharing Jesus with others. His emphasis on grace-motivated evangelism was really helpful: so often I find myself being motivated by guilt, so it was good to be reminded to stand firm in grace.

I really enjoyed seeing college CUs bonding over games of Monopoly Deal, going on walks, and chatting over tea and cake. These are the mission teams that will share Christ with their Oxford colleges this year – just imagine the potential influence they have, having formed friendships and caught the CU vision just before the first term!

As well as the main teaching, there were two seminar slots; I helped run ‘Starting Well’with the rest of the UCCF Oxford team. We encouraged freshers to be like Daniel, getting stuck into the learning and culture of the university whilst resolving to live distinctively. The other seminar, ‘Keeping Going’, reminded freshers to cultivate spiritual disciplines throughout university. These seminars acted as springboards for further dialogue between current students and freshers. I loved hearing current students having honest chats with first year students, sharing stories and encouragements and it’s great to see Jesus’ Lordship over everything being played out as CU students seek to live distinctively in their colleges, tutorials and sports teams.

Church leaders from a range of churches in Oxford also visited for an afternoon. This was a great opportunity to live-out UCCF’s commitment to the local church, believing it is the primary and life-long place of Christian ministry and discipleship. I’d love to see the chats between church leaders and freshers result in freshers quickly getting stuck into churches across the city.

Freshaway was a great opportunity to celebrate unity and this unity was wonderfully reflected as students from different churches, backgrounds, and years came together to make Freshaway happen. Other highlights of the getaway included the organised fun (challenges like ‘how many animal noises can you make in 30 seconds’ were particularly memorable), the prayer and praise evening, and, obviously, the food.

I’d love for you to join me in praying that this excitement to live and speak for Jesus in university would not only continue this term, but grow and be passed on to other Christian freshers. It’s exciting to think of the impact these freshers could have for Christ!

One fresher wrote that the getaway was ‘A wonderfully warm and welcoming couple of days! Really enjoyed myself – my throat hurts a little from laughing so much!’

One college rep said ‘Freshaway was amazing, such an encouragement to see the future on fire for the gospel and being equipped to share it, blew my scepticisms out the window.’


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