Having gone to Catholic school my whole life, coming to a religiously-affiliated university wasn’t a big deal. I had done my time in plaid skirts, attending monthly Masses, and Theology classes every year since I was five. When the structure was provided for me, I felt oversaturated in it, aside from the few and far between personal religious experiences I had (mostly stemming from religious retreats my high school offered). Flash forward to arriving at college: suddenly I was free from a uniform, being forced to sit through Mass in a stuffy gym, and finally had the room to take more classes now that I didn’t have Theology every semester! I knew, however, that this freedom was daunting. The absence of the structure I clung to was equal parts liberating and terrifying.
As the year progressed, I found myself longing for a community similar to what I had felt in high school. Without realizing it, the impact my Christian community had on me in my formative years was stronger than I knew before. It was something that brought the people to whom I was closest to together with a purpose. We were rooted under a common set of values, something that I was trying to find in my new place. I attended Chi Alpha, the Christian worship group on campus, and was immediately welcomed into the community. Since then, I have joined a Bible study led by an upperclassman friend, attended the 9pm Sunday Mass at College Church, and read a daily devotional. More than anything, I’ve realized the value of surrounding yourself with like-minded people. Of course it’s important to be challenged by those who share different views than us, but having a community to come back to is so valuable and gave me a home away from home (as cheesy as it sounds). Alongside the organized faith communities I participate in, the value of having motivation and something to fall back on in times of stress or doubt is extremely comforting. We can’t all get a hug from our mom when we’ve had a bad day, but knowing you have a faith and core set of values to guide your lifestyle through every up and down is extremely comforting.
Finding a community in college where you feel like you can be yourself and share the good and bad parts of your day is extremely important. In a college setting, discussing your faith can be taboo: you don’t want to step on anybody’s toes with your beliefs, but recognizing that your faith is valid and deserves to be validated is a fine line. The kind of acceptance of all religions SLU does a great job to promote sets the tone for acceptance of conversations about many faiths. Finding your place in the hustle and bustle of college life is important for every student. It doesn’t have to be a religious group, but if that intrigues you, there are many resources for different faiths on campus. Almost every major religion is represented on campus, and there are worship groups for whatever you need, whether that be nondenominational or in the specific faith you practice. College is hard, and sometimes having a community you can lean on that shares your value is all the motivation you need when you’re struggling.