Entering university for the first time may be a daunting experience to many. But more than a milestone of academics and grades, our university experience can teach us much about life. We spoke to four young adults who shared what they’ve learnt so far. So pay close attention if you’re a freshie because there are some gems in here!
MAKING NEW FRIENDS, DISCOVERING NEW CULTURES
All my life, I grew up in a Christian home and went to mission schools from primary school all the way to junior college.
It was only after I entered university that I learnt how I had been living in an insular bubble.
During my orientation camp as a freshie, I remember sitting between two other freshies who were having a conversation about being atheist. They seemed very proud to be atheist and bonded over it.
That made me fearful of sharing about my love for Jesus to them, and to schoolmates in general. I was afraid that they would hate me or see me differently if I showed them how much Jesus meant to me.
A fellow freshie also came out as gay while we were playing the traffic light game. He told us that his traffic light colour was purple and green, meaning he was gay and single.
Everyone in the circle cheered loudly and applauded him. But I just sat still. I was genuinely confused at that point in time, and honestly didn’t know to respond.
Eventually, I realised that that was a very important moment for him so that he could feel safe in school. This incident and many others down the line helped me realise that some moments are for people to express themselves.
Not all moments are meant for discourse or debating. There must certainly be those moments, but also those for listening to and understanding what others go through.
I’ve learnt that it’s very important to listen to experiences that are different from ours. It is not necessary to agree with each other’s views in order to love one another.
So, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
In my case, I was afraid of my school culture and initially felt like I had to be a certain kind of person to fit in.
With time, I learnt that people are attracted to authenticity more than anything! Remember that you aren’t going to be able to impress everyone, and that’s okay.
Remember to also keep close to God! Find Christian support, whether or not in official Christian fellowships. It’s very easy to get lost in the vast array of university events and late-night hall suppers and sleepovers.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Finally, remember that while having fun and exploring and are good things, life without God is meaningless.
Chasing novel experiences may give you temporary fulfilment, but will soon enough leave you feeling empty if that’s all there is to it.
So, remember your purpose in life and hold on to that as you go through this exciting journey!
LEARNING TO GET MY PRIORITIES RIGHT
I joined my university hostel and my church’s university ministry wanting to glorify God, draw close to him and do His work.
I did the things I thought would help me achieve this like reading His Word, fellowship with believers and organising events to minister and share the gospel.
My time was so preoccupied with ministry-related events that I barely had time to study or do anything else.
As the verse goes (Matthew 6:33), seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, right?
I believed that doing more (regardless of my intentions) reflected the fruit of the Spirit in me and that surely, I was growing closer to God through these deeds!
However, I started to burn out and feel deeply unsatisfied. And I could not comprehend why.
Shouldn’t there be joy in serving God and drawing closer to him? Shouldn’t there be joy in seeing lives changed? But it was honestly just tiring and painful.
I only realised, in retrospect after I graduated, that I did these things to look like a perfect Christian. To prove that I was indeed glorifying God.
As I reflected more on why I didn’t feel joy in serving, I realised that it was because I was inclined to read the Bible and do the Christian things only when I remembered that I am a Christian leader.
It wasn’t because I genuinely wanted to taste the goodness of God and know Him more.
I was inclined to read the Bible and do the Christian things only when I remembered that I am a Christian leader.
On the outside, my successes in ministry made me believe that I had a great walk with God.
But on the inside, I was not pursuing God.
Forcing ourselves to attain “perfection” is not what matters. Pressing on with sincerity (with integrity of heart as is said in 1 Kings 9:4-5) to seek God, no matter how small the steps are, no matter how insignificant it looks like to others — that is what keeps us hopeful and joyful in the ups and downs.
In the same manner, one will be tempted to chase worldly accolades and achievements in university like CAP, GPA, CCA records and internship experiences — anything to make your LinkedIn look fantastic.
But know that these are not the markers of our success nor the source to satisfy our souls. Being closer to God day by day is, no matter how small the steps are. Take heart!
FOLLOWING MY PARENTS’ ADVICE CHANGED MY LIFE
When it came to choosing which university to go to after A-Levels, the National University of Singapore (NUS) was always the clear choice just because I had wanted to experience hall life all along.
However, to my parents, Singapore Management University (SMU) was the better option as SMU offered me the opportunity to study law which my parents deemed as having better career prospects.
I was very sceptical of enrolling at SMU because it had no halls. I feared I wouldn’t have a good student life experience.
Additionally, at that time, SMU was also relatively “young” in terms of establishment compared to NUS, and not many of my junior college friends wanted to go to SMU.
Knowing this, I began to also fear losing out to my peers in the future in terms of academic achievements.
Having struggled with listening to my parents’ advice and what I truly wanted at that point in time, to my greatest reluctance, I accepted SMU’s offer.
Thankfully, it turned out to be the most life-changing decision I have ever made. I thoroughly enjoyed the student life experience in SMU, met several lifelong friends (including my soon-to-be husband) and studied my dream course which ultimately became my career.
The future may seem uncertain, but know that God has a plan for you and He will open the right doors for you at the right time.
I enjoyed SMU so much that I even became an SMU Student Ambassador and lived, loved and shared my SMU experiences with many of the stakeholders of the school!
Looking back, I may not have gotten what I initially desired but I am really thankful with what God has planned out for me. God has never short-changed me in any aspect of my university life.
For all you freshies out there at your crossroads right now, the future may seem uncertain, but know that God has a plan for you and He will open the right doors for you at the right time.
AN UNEXPECTED NEW JOURNEY
I first wanted to apply for medicine and dentistry at NUS, but I was extremely disappointed when I received my results. I knew immediately that I would not meet the cut off points for either two choices.
With friends securing spots in university or starting their first year, I started to get worried and longed for security. I decided to think about what other options interested me and teaching came to mind.
Becoming a teacher was an idea that first came to me in secondary school, but I always saw it as a career I could fall back on rather than a career to start with.
Regardless, I took a leap of faith and applied to be a teacher. I also applied for law but was rejected. I was downcast the whole day when I read of my rejection, but God was gracious because it was that same evening when I received news that God had opened the door for me to be a teacher.
It was confirmation that God was working something in my life (even since secondary school). Even though I had resisted it and had been distracted by other “shinier” prospects along the way, He was working before I even knew it.
Remembering how God has led thus far is an important grounding force that I would be foolish to forget.
The application process made it clear to me that there were many things out of my control and God’s plans are higher than ours.
As a fellow freshie matriculating this year, I encourage you to commit the next season of life to God! I foresee that it’ll be very easy to get swept up in the whirlwind of campus life.
So, even for myself, just remembering how I got here and how God has led thus far is an important grounding force that I would be foolish to forget.
Got the nervous jitters about freshman year? Don’t really know where to start? We’ve lined up two opportunities to help you get sorted before Year 1 begins.
- #BlessedIsTheFreshman | Cru Singapore‘s campus programme for freshies lets you meet freshies from other universities as well as Cru seniors who can help you navigate the weird and wonderful waters ahead!
- FRESHMEN PARTY | HOPE Singapore has specially tailored hangouts for freshies entering NUS, NTU, NIE, SMU, KAPLAN, SIM, NAFA AND LASALLE!
- What is the point of university?
- What does the Bible say about studying and education?
- What are your top 3 worries right now? Bring it to God in prayer.
- Know someone who’s entering university soon? Share this with them.