Welcome to polytechnic!
I’ve been a lecturer for donkey’s years now, and I’ve seen many students from all different walks of life come and go. Polytechnic can be a very exciting time for students, and for lecturers too.
A freshie walks through the polytechnic gates as a school kid and leaves as an adult. It’s that very formative time in your life when you really get to decide what kind of person you want to be for the rest of your life.
And as every lecturer knows, it’s a privilege to be able to influence your character and thinking in a positive way.
You get to decide what kind of person you want to be for the rest of your life.
Recently, some of my Year 3 students remarked that I have changed a lot since teaching them in Year 1.
Apparently, I have mellowed and become a lot less strict. But what I told them was that it was them who had changed. Compared to two years ago, when they were, honestly, childish schoolchildren, they had grown to be mature and sensible young adults.
I only changed because I had begun to treat them as such.
Regardless, with all this excitement and growing up to do, polytechnic can also be a very confusing place. Especially for you, Christian Polytechnic Student.
You will have many new experiences, opportunities and organisations to be a part of. You will meet a diverse group of people from all sorts of backgrounds.
You have more freedom now. Some of you may also start to spend less time at home as you are out more often with friends.
Needless to say, it’s easy to get swept up in the whirlwind of polytechnic life.
Don’t misuse that freedom, use that freedom to find out what is truly important to you.
My advice is to not misuse that freedom, but to use that freedom to find out what is truly important to you.
Someone once told me, “To enjoy freedom, we have to control ourselves.” So, more than ever, with great power comes great responsibility.
After seeing so many batches of students, here are three of my most helpful tips to avoid common pitfalls as you enter this new chapter.
1. BE THE SALT OF THE EARTH
I’ve observed that junior colleges (JC) and polytechnics are generally the places where the most long-lasting and deepest friendships are made.
The demographic of polytechnic students are also, in my opinion, more diverse and more representative of Singapore’s society than JC, university or your church.
You will be doing group projects with high achievers and not-so-high achievers. You will have friends of high SES and friends of low SES. You will have friends from different races and religions.
I hope that doesn’t drive you away, because it’s a great opportunity to show God’s love to all. Go out of your way to build relationships with everyone and enjoy their company.
Look out for everyone, especially those who seem to be on the margins – those who are not doing so well in lessons or those who are not so integrated with the rest of the class.
It’s an opportunity to develop empathy too, when you speak with those who are not like you and understand their points of view even if you do not agree with them, so that you can be a positive influence, if not in these three years, then in the years to come.
Here, you have this chance to step out of your own comfort zone.
At the same time, while you make friends, it’s easy to be pressured to fit in.
People don’t necessarily wear religion on their sleeves, and you may be called to stand up for your faith at times, especially if your friends do things which you know would not be God-honouring.
Will you still show up for class even if your friends are elsewhere having fun? Would you participate in unwholesome CCA activities that only seek to tekan new members?
Standing up for your faith is not easy, but when you do it right, don’t be surprised if your friends ask you why you’re so different.
And when that happens, as it says in 1 Peter 3:15: “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
After all, God hasn’t put you in a place where you can meet a more diverse group of people by mistake.
2. REMAIN ROOTED IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
It is also important to be supported by a Christian community that is active in seeking God.
Consider joining a Christian group in your polytechnic. Attend your church’s cell group regularly, so that you are constantly in touch with a group of Christians who are praying for you and supporting you in your journey.
You don’t have to take on the world on your own. No man is an island. This Christian community will be the spiritual lifeline that you will need. As Hebrews 10:24-25 puts it:
I would like to say a special word about joining a Christian group on campus. Polytechnic students (unlike university students) commute to school every day. They don’t stay in hostels, so joining Christian Fellowship or Navigators or Cru may mean an extra evening out.
Nevertheless, it is worth it. So do link up with Christians on campus, if not once a week then once a fortnight or every few weeks.
It is tempting to compartmentalise your life into Sundays for “Christian activities”, and the rest of the week for other things.
Meeting with fellow believers on campus (where it is allowed) is like a “sacred” space in the week which can refresh you spiritually and remind you of the wider aims of life.
While you do that, you too may be that instrument of encouragement to fellow Christian students facing the same stresses and temptations.
And for some of these students, who find it challenging to attend church due to any number of reasons, the campus fellowship may well be the only Christian meeting they can attend.
Iron sharpens iron. Would you be the iron to sharpen a brother or sister in Christ?
3. COMMIT THIS SEASON OF LIFE TO GOD
Lastly and most importantly, commit your polytechnic years to God. This is an exciting time and you’ll have the opportunity to meet new friends and explore new opportunities.
Most polytechnics offer a wide range of programmes that will support your academic pursuits as well as student activities aimed at developing your soft skills.
You’ll have many more chances for internships and mentorships compared to your JC peers.
As such, you may find yourself starting to think more about your career goals and ambitions, since you’ll be equipped with industry experience.
It would be best to start thinking about your future career as early as you can so that you can network as much as possible. Talk to God about that!
Yes, it can be awfully stressful to shoulder all these responsibilities yourself.
When you feel overwhelmed, remember that God knows the plans He has for you. What you really need to do is to seek Him and His will for you.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of one’s calling, but as you seek God through your studies, He will make you more sensitive to the prompting of His Spirit and will guide you accordingly.
Simply commit this new chapter of your life to the Lord, so that He can direct you in how you spend your time in polytechnic.
In the end, you have been placed here in polytechnic because God has lead you thus far.
The freedom, time and opportunities you will be given here have been given by God in His perfect wisdom and providence.
We are called to be good stewards and use those gifts wisely, and we can do so by working hard, working smart and making friends, while staying rooted in our faith.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans...
In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:3, 9)
Trust that your Abba Father who loves you has the best plan for your life in polytechnic and will lead you to have the most fulfilling time possible!
*The author has taught as a polytechnic lecturer in Singapore for over 20 years. His name has been changed for confidentiality.
- What might being salt and light mean for your life?
- Are you part of a Christian community? Some steps you could take would be to seek out a church, or a Christian group in school.
- What are some things you need commit to God in this season? Place it in His hands in prayer.
- Know someone who is facing a tough time adjusting to poly life? Reach out this week with a little encouragement 🙂