Stepping foot in the city of Austin to visit The University of Texas for the first time, I was in awe of how amazing the city and campus were. From the moment our tour started, I knew I would spend my college years calling this place home. When we got back to our small Texas town, I declared I wanted to be a Longhorn. However, my parents and community were worried what would happen when I packed up and moved to a city with the motto “Keep Austin Weird.”
One of my biggest worries about starting college was whether I would find friends who shared my religious beliefs. Many people I spoke with made Austin sound like a place where finding a fellow Christian was nearly impossible. I was encouraged to use online and on-campus resources to find a community who would push me to grow stronger and support me in my faith. This community has made my first year of college the best year of my life.
Related: Living Your Faith on Campus
A local ministry called Ignite Texas hosts a retreat for incoming freshmen and transfer students to help them find and connect with a Christian community in the area. By going to this retreat, I met my future best friends, was introduced to the church I regularly attend now, and was able to see what it looks like to be a dedicated Christian student at a public college.
Using social media to connect with fellow Christian Longhorns made it easy to make friends when I got on campus. Without a proper Christian community, it can be easy to fall out of a relationship with God—especially in college, when there’s so much freedom to act as you choose. Many college-bound students may think they’ll miss out on the “typical college experience” of parties and drinking if they decide to stay true to their Christian values, but I’ve never once felt like I was missing out on anything.
In my first year, my friends and I have had fun, memorable experiences without breaking the values that are important to us. From studying God’s Word together to talking about life with 16 people crammed in a four-person tent while it’s pouring outside, there are plenty of ways to create amazing, wholesome weekends without parties or alcohol.
Being involved in college isn’t impossible while being a dedicated Christian. There are many ministries and Christian fraternities and sororities available for students looking to find a place to call home. There are also many faithful Christians involved in secular Greek life and other organizations, which is perfectly fine too! It’s surprising how many people ask you about your actions or why you don’t drink, which is the perfect leeway to sharing your faith.
Going to a public university is a great opportunity to grow in your walk with Christ because there are so many opportunities to evangelize. It’s easy to get caught in a bubble when you hang out with a bunch of other students who go to the same church and participate in the same organizations, but there are also great opportunities to expand your social networks and get to know people you share other interests with. As Christians, we’re supposed to show the world God’s love through our love, and there’s plenty of opportunities to do that at any public university!
While college is ultimately the time students may choose to explore other aspects of the world around them, there are many accessible ways for students to easily choose to keep following their faith. Adults in the church, professors, upperclassman, and peers in school who are also Christian are all open to helping students figure out their walk with Christ.
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