Though it’s been only three years since I left university and moved to Manchester (aka, the best place to be), I occasionally still find myself missing some of the great things you can only really experience as a student. I remember chatting to some leaders at church when I was studying, and nearly every one of them would say something along the lines of “I wish I’d taken advantage of the time I had as a student”. For me, there will always be an element of that, but when I look back on the cracking three years I had at Nottingham Uni there are loads of things that I loved doing and that I wouldn’t change!
If you’re about to head off to uni for the first time, here are just a few tips that I learned (or wish I’d learned):
1 – Find a church.
I’ve put this as my first point for a reason. The amount of people who drop out of church when they go to university is staggering. I was lucky, finding a church wasn’t really a priority for me, but thankfully a friend from home invited me in my first week and God did the rest. Make it a priority for you and be proactive! There will be so many people to help point you in the right direction. Services might be happening in person – and if so, book your seat and go along! If churches are just online, tune in and engage in the general chat. Reach out and introduce yourself – perhaps there are Zoom calls you could join to get to know people or something happening during the week you could attend? They would love to connect with you!
2 – Once you’ve found the church, commit to it!
Once you’ve found a church community you like, commit. It’s ok of course to look around and I would so encourage that, but only to an extent. Don’t treat finding a church like a fantasy dating scheme, because the truth is, there is no ‘perfect’ church that will tick all the boxes, but there are loads that are on fire for Jesus who want to invest in you and invite you into their community. With so many churches online, it can be even easier to get a flavour of what they’re like. In all honesty, I would recommend giving yourself four weeks: pray it over, and then commit. And once you commit, get involved! Can you join a team or get involved with a small group? These are the best ways to get to know the people in your church and really find out what your church is all about.
3 – Love the place you live.
I see so many students who go away to the most amazing places (and every place has some gems in it to enjoy), but the minute you actually talk to them about life outside the uni … nothing. Go out and explore and love the place you live, discover parts of the city that aren’t just the student areas, get involved in things at church that are beyond just the student bubble that will impact the city you’re in. God put you in that specific place for a reason, don’t experience just half of it.
4 – Get involved in university life
Being a student offers so many unique opportunities that you just don’t get in any other life stage. So go and join that society you’ve always wanted to try or stay up late chatting with your mates, or do your shopping at midnight in the 24-hour Tescos supermarket in your pyjamas (and enjoy the staff looking at you as you do it)! Being a student is so much fun – enjoy it and get the most out of it.
5 – Work hard.
I’m not meaning to sound like your parents here, but please don’t do the whole ‘first year doesn’t count for me so I don’t need to bother this year’ (though for some subjects it does – sorry medics and vets). God has given you the privilege of being at university… and you’re likely paying a lot of money to be there! It’s important to remember that there are thousands of other people across the globe who would give a lot to be where you’re at. So enjoy your time, but honour God in the opportunity he has given you by attending your lectures, putting in some hours at the library, and giving yourself a grade you can be proud of.
6 – Get a doorstop.
Someone recommended this to me when I went to uni and it worked like a charm. In that first week in halls, I was able to have my door propped open and so easily chat with people as they walked past. My housemates knew they were welcome to come in, and it was one of the simplest ways to meet new people. You don’t even need to say a word!
Finally, have the most amazing time! God has put you there for a reason, so enjoy it… and if you’re heading to Manchester, you just won the jackpot, my friend, come to Manchester Vineyard and see what you’ve won!
If you’re heading to University this September we’d love to point you towards our Church Finder to find and connect with your nearest Vineyard church. We believe this will help the transition of moving homes so much easier!