I knew transitions can be tough, but nothing could prepare me for what transiting to university would be like. 

As an extrovert, I thought that entering university would be a breeze.

I was terribly mistaken. My first semester was a mess. An overwhelming mess, to say the least. 

Three words to summarise my first semester? An identity crisis

The vision

Within the first few weeks of starting university, I found myself alone and crying out to God at the state of my semester. 

That was when God gave me a vision: I saw Him taking out broken and rotten bricks from a building and replacing them with brand-new, indestructible bricks. 

I am removing what you have built your identity on and replacing them with Me, the Cornerstone of your life.

That seemed to be the message I was getting. The building in the image was representative of my identity, and the “rotten” bricks referred to the things of the world I had built my life upon. 

This image brought a lot of comfort to me initially, but I gradually came to resent God for it – especially when challenges started to come in university. 

Why destroy a good thing? I thought I was in a good place with You? That was what I would end up thinking as I chose to run away.

The first brick

I used to pride myself as being someone everyone knows. The one who has friends everywhere.

And I mean everywhere. Wherever I went, I would meet someone I know. I always had friends around me. 

Being in a communications course full of ENFP kids, I thought I would be able to find my people immediately.

Many people found their comfort friends during orientation. But even after orientation, I was all alone. 

I was afraid of being seen alone on campus, I was afraid of how others would see me and I was afraid that I would have no friends. 

So, I joined a group that had the same timetable as me. But, we were very different. Even though I was physically with them, I was never a part of them. 

This exacerbated the loneliness I was feeling in hall.

Staying on campus, I thought that my social life would be bustling just like I had seen on Instagram and TikTok.

Supper hangouts, celebrating birthdays, hanging out till the wee hours of the night… that was what I had looked forward to.

But I grew disillusioned very quickly. There were many “mouse moments” in hall when I was alone and crying out to God, asking why I was alone and why I couldn’t fit in. 

I questioned God’s goodness. How was He the Cornerstone of my life if I was in so much pain?

The second brick

The next brick of my identity that was destroyed? Academics.

Growing up, doing well in school was always a given. As long as I put in effort into studying, good results were sure to come.

However, my happy bubble burst when I entered a top university; I am in a field and course where most undergraduates were the top in their schools or well above average. 

I was used to being a big fish in a small pond. But entering university, I was a small fish in a big huge pond. 

Everyone who came in already knew what they wanted to do, they already had a certain level of skill or experience. And here I was, just glad that I could make it into the course. 

My best was no longer the “top”. I was struggling to even be “average”.

Gradually, I burnt out and lost my motivation to study. 

The final brick 

Ministry was the third brick that was taken.

My church groups members according to life station and campus. As such, I moved to the Tertiary Ministry, which turned out to be a difficult transition for me.

It was difficult transiting to a new life station on top of joining a new cell group. 

My church, a place I had called home for over seven years, started to seem so foreign to me.

There were many unfamiliar faces and I was no longer with my Kingdom friends who had journeyed with me through my growing up years. 

I knew that it took time to adjust, but I didn’t find comfort in my university cell group in the beginning. I felt as if I was all alone. 

My identity, shattered

With all these bricks crumbling down on me, I gave up. 

If You’re not helping me, I don’t want to be with You! That was my cry of anger to God as I left the church to rebel against Him.

I felt weighed down by the idea that I was supposed to be this person who was “put together” – someone who praised God all the time in the midst of trials.

So, I yelled at God and told Him I couldn’t be this “Good Christian Girl”. I then swung to the opposite end and decided to be “rabz” (out of control). 

I stopped loving people the way God loves me, I stopped caring for other people who didn’t “add value” into my life.

I sought a self-seeking lifestyle in order to find the security and comfort I longed for. 

In order to fit into “university culture”, where everyone around me partied, drank and clubbed, I joined in. 

I thought that I could find “my people” by participating in these activities. After all, since I couldn’t find a community in the church, I figured I would find one in the world.

I partied, clubbed and drank to numb the pain. 

I indulged in the world and became someone I no longer recognised. 

My identity was eventually “rabz” and when I said that I was Christian, the people around me simply scoffed. “You Christian meh?” they said with a laugh.

Who was I? Who had I become? 

Reconstruction: Built on Grace alone

Even though I rebelled against God, He never let go of me. He was patient, loving and present. 

God sent people into my life who loved me and cared for me, to remind me to return to God and live for Him.

My Kingdom friends from my pre-university days chased after me – some even went to the extent of coming to my campus hall.

These friends reminded me of God’s goodness and rebuked me for my ungodly lifestyle, things I needed to hear.

God helped me realise that my identity shouldn’t be based on the title of “Good Christian Girl” or “rabz”. My identity should simply be His beloved daughter. 

My mentor was someone who constantly reminded me of God’s presence in my life.

Her patience and love reflected that of God’s, which was something that also led me back to Christ. 

In my “rabz” season, the Holy Spirit constantly stirred within me. 

Is this truly good? Is this really the life I want to live? Is this who God intended me to be?

After wrestling, I had this sobering realisation that the world would never satisfy. The void I tried to fill with the world could never be filled. 

At my wits’ end, God helped me realise that my identity shouldn’t be based on the title of “Good Christian Girl” or “rabz”. My identity should simply be His beloved daughter. 

His unconditional love and grace broke my hardened heart, and I went back running to Him as a daughter who knew she was wrong.

And He welcomed me back into His loving arms. 

He is a God of life transformation.

My resentment towards God for this season of taking away my bricks turned into gratitude, when I realised how much I needed this fundamental change.

He is a God of life transformation. Knowing how He turned my brokenness into a testimony for His glory, knowing that I’ve grown from this season and am unrecognisable – that gives me the certainty that I can trust Him as I face the future.

4 B’s: The things I wish I knew before university

I hope that you’ll never have to reach the low point that I did in university. 

But thankfully, solely by the grace of God, I have grown from that season in my life. God used that period to rebuild my identity in Him. 

How I wish that I had known to anticipate these struggles, or at least have some idea of how to face them. 

That’s why I’m sharing these four pieces of advice – take it from someone who didn’t transit to university well! 

1. Be aware that everyone is struggling

You’re not alone! I know that it’s very easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling, but don’t fall into the trap of comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel on social media.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, struggles with university at first. But as someone who’s finished her first year, I promise you that it will get better. 

… don’t fall into the trap of comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel on social media.

So instead of fearing a transition, talk to your community about it.

If your friend is struggling with transiting into university or moving between seasons, encourage them with God’s Word and by being with them (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Everyone’s struggling with something.

2. Be okay with being alone

There will be many pockets of time when you’ll either be alone in your room or dorm – get used to it. 

That’s not to say that you should be alone all the time; I’m talking about changing the way you’ve been looking at the time you spend alone.

How do you view alone time? I used to view being alone as a weakness, but I’ve learnt to appreciate it knowing that we are never alone – God is always with us. 

We can also learn to view alone time as a time for solitude instead. If even Jesus needed solitude, how much more do we? 

Time alone with God will grow our spiritual lives.

3. Be intentional

Making friends in university takes intentionality. 

If you want to find like-minded peers, join different interest groups/clubs/societies/CCAs. Be intentional in putting yourself out there to make friends.

Also, if you find people you can gel well with in class – why not ask them out for a meal after class to get to know them better?

Friendships take time to build, so don’t beat yourself up if it takes a while.

It took a lot of time before I could call my university life group my community. Today, I’m thankful that they are journeying with me in my walk with God. 

Tessa with her friends at church camp.

It took a lot of courage to go back to church after my “rabz” season, but they welcomed me back with warmth and God’s love.

This didn’t mean that they were “my people” immediately; it took a lot of intentionality and effort to be a part of a biblical community which supports one another.

We started with eating meals together after service. We made an effort to attend cell group meetings and check up on one another’s walks with God.

It took some time, but we eventually became a family who loves God together!

4. Be sure of who you are

Last but not least, know your identity – this is the most fundamental thing. 

Be rooted in your identity as God’s beloved child! Anchor yourself on God and always remember His Word (Proverbs 4:21-23).

Even if storms rage around you, remember that Jesus is in the boat with you. 

If you’re like me and you’ve just finished your academic year, take time out to reflect on your lessons learnt thus far. 

If you’re transiting to university, I pray for God’s wisdom and presence to be with you. 

New seasons may not be easy, but take comfort and assurance that God is with you through it all. 

  1. What are the fears you have in university? 
  2. What “bricks” have you been building your identity on?
  3. In times of adversity, do you turn to God for help?
  4. Is there anyone who can spur you on during your trials?