You’ve arrived! You’re a college student. You’ve navigated the campus, found your class rooms and spent a small fortune on books and supplies. You’re away from home and on your own. Now what? Here are some recommendations from the veterans – those who have not only survived — with a wound or two — but have also succeeded in becoming young adults.
FREE TO CHOOSE TO LIVE YOUR FAITH
Andrew Haun is a 2013 graduate of Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, Penn. with a B.S. in environmental studies. Here are his top suggestions for success:
“College is a different lifestyle than you’re probably used to. You’re finally on your own and there’s no one to check up on you. It’s at this point in your life that you can really start making decisions as an adult. Nobody is there to make you go to church or keep you from partying. You can do what you want. And that’s what’s so great. Now you can choose to live your faith, or you can choose to walk another path. It’s most liberating to follow our Catholic values for our own reasons, and not just because a teacher or parent pushes for it.
Living your faith — a life that is contrary to secular culture — on a public college campus is not without its challenges. Your professors and classmates will promote many ideas that are contrary to our faith. Listen to their words, but don’t be afraid to express your beliefs and values too.
Campus ministry can be a great support system. Whether you’re a lively extrovert or a reserved introvert —like me — you’ll fit in — with people who feel similar about our faith — proud to respect the right to life, not be promiscuous, and not ashamed to visit God weekly at church.
Campus ministry gave me a chance to connect with our priest and campus minister, both of whom have become dear friends and trusted confidants. College is not easy — it’s full of life struggles. It’s good to have a spiritual compass to bounce ideas off of.
Finally, work hard, but make time to be a person as well. Good grades are important, and go a long way, but don’t burn yourself out trying to be perfect.
God loves you, whether you ignore him, wander in sinful ways, or are confused. It’s never too late to turn to him. Make him number one in your life, and you’ll experience many blessings. I say this because a life without God is sad and lonely. When you connect with the Lord, things have a way of falling into place.”
CATHOLIC SOCCER LEAGUE WON BEST FRIENDS
Maria Discenna just graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a B.S. in business administration and is working for an automotive company.
“I was really involved in high school youth group, but drifted away for a little while. I also had a separate group of friends not in their faith and I’m still in contact with them, but I love my friends here and have a strong group in my faith. My family has been supportive. Knowing who I can depend on to help me make the right decisions in my life has been important.
Figure out what you enjoy doing – for me it was soccer – I met a friend who told me about a Catholic soccer league. I met some of my best friends on the soccer league – they were friends who drew me even deeper into my faith
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t have been able to defend my faith, but getting involved in Newman Center, I had a starting point – this is our faith.
There are no stupid questions. It’s awesome to get together with someone from Newman Center – you can read scripture or talk about your faith – we can make each other think and it makes it ten times easier to talk to others about faith.
I work at an automotive company and it was difficult during Lent when I was fasting. There were times they joked about it, but I know I touched at least one person. I knew that if it wasn’t for the people I had learned my faith with, I wouldn’t have had the courage to talk to people at work.”
BECOME YOUR OWN PERSON
A 2013 graduate of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Joshua Diaz is spending a year with the Brotherhood of Hope before joining Teach for America as an intern in the inner city schools of Jacksonville.
“Take the time and opportunity to become your own person. Here everyone is doing the same thing and you won’t be judged by it. Don’t let society tell you who you are.
Please don’t be influenced by the assumption that religion is boring. When you find people discovering their faith – you will develop life-long relationships at the deepest level of connection with another human being.
This past year, I served as President of the Catholic Student Union and I made it my point to be approachable. I went to talk with freshman about anything on a very deep level. I was once like you and Catholic campus ministry helped me to form myself and witness to how important it is to me. Try to be real. Let your faith challenge you and come alive.”
SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO
Lisa Zelfa is a senior at Wayne State University in Detroit. She lives with her family in the suburbs and commutes to school. Lisa grew up in Baghdad in Northern Iraq and moved to the U.S. seven years ago at age 16. She attends St. Thomas Chaldean Parish which is Eastern Catholic with her family and has been active in campus ministry for the past two years.
“I was hungry to learn more about God and Jesus. I was hungry for one-on-one personal talk with people.
Find the campus ministry on your campus and see what you can do. I’m responsible for media and communications.
Be open — Jesus can’t change your life unless you give him permission — surrender and give him permission.”
IT’S ALWAYS FUN WITH JESUS!
Justin L’Esperance is a 2013 graduate with a B.S. in biology from Wayne State University. He is working as a nursing assistant.
“The first semester I went to Mass, but I didn’t go to campus ministry. I knew I needed more in my life and I connected with the Newman Center on Thursday nights in the Upper Room for praise and worship and talk. I took a leadership role and we tried to grow our ministry. We wanted to share it with everyone!
My advice to Catholic students:
- Make yourself vulnerable to letting God work in your life.
- Try to form a personal relationship with God.
- Seek out Catholic Campus Ministry – give it a try/look for it/do as much as you can.
- Develop a prayer life – it’s hard but you can develop it for yourself – no longer for your parents. Structure in prayer has been beneficial to me.
College is a stressful time but you don’t have to handle it alone. It’s an interesting ride and you won’t ever be bored. It’s always fun with Jesus.”