Kevin came on staff at American University Chi Alpha in 2012 after graduating with a Bachelor's of Science in Business. He is the director of Chi Alpha International and also disciples student leaders. In his free time he likes to cheer on his Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins. He also has an impeccable bowling form.
Find a faith community
I can’t stress this enough, and this is why I’ve written this as my first tip. The common lie we often tell ourselves when moving into a spiritually hostile environment such as a college campus is that we can do this faith thing on our own.
We might even tell ourselves that we’d be able to minister better to non-Christians if we kept our faith private.
While it is important that we answer the call we’ve been given in the New Testament “to be witnesses unto the ends of the earth”; we must also realize that although our faith is personal, it was never meant to be private.
In fact, many of Jesus’ commands call us to love one another, to care for one another and even to lay down our lives for each other; all of which are impossible apart from Christian community.
True community will mold and push you towards a deeper relationship with the Father, and it is from this foundation that we find our strength and wisdom to minister to those who don’t know God.
Campus ministries aren’t churches!
As much as I love campus ministries, we must be cautious about recognizing it as a church. I often find myself in conversation with college students who don’t find the need to plug into a church because they say they find everything they need at their college ministry. After all, their campus ministry has worship, and sermons, and small groups, and outreach, and they take an offering. So then what is the difference between a church and a campus ministry?
Trans-generational interaction. Of all the differences between a church and a campus ministry, this is probably the greatest and of largest significance for our spiritual walks as young twenty-somethings. We need to be able to interact with people who have lived longer, and walked in obedience with the Lord for longer periods of time so that we can learn from them. In the same way, we need to find opportunities to mentor younger Christians, to guide them through social pressures that we ourselves have experienced.
You will have to say “no” to some things
One of the first things you learn in ECON 101 is the term “opportunity cost”. An opportunity cost is what a business sacrifices for a decision they make. I’m probably not defining it as well as I should but you get the idea.
There is a cost to every decision we make. The opportunity cost for hanging out with friends is that you have less time for homework. The opportunity cost for going abroad is that you have less time to build friendship in college. It is impossible to do anything without a cost, and you will have to learn to say “no” to certain things, even if they are very good things. As my friend puts it sometimes, “in saying yes to one thing, you are inadvertently say no to something else”.
This leads me to my fourth piece of advice. The Fear of Missing Out, it is what causes someone to try to be everywhere at every moment.
The inability to do so often leads to anxiety and stress and the unwarranted feeling of loneliness. IGNORE IT. Okay that might sound a little too easy.
I’ve found that the best way to work through the anxiety of missing out on things is to be mindful of the situation- to acknowledge that there is a very real cost to every thing I do, to keep in perspective what I might be missing out on, and to fully dive into whatever decision I make without any regret.
Leave your preconceived notions about college life at home
We’ve all seen movies and television shows portray a certain image of college life; we hear our siblings and friends talk about their experience of college. We have influencers all around us telling us what college life should be like.
Even this blog post in some way gives you a glimpse into the college experience that I had. Leave all those notions at home, and come to college with an open mind. Each college experience is unique; because if no two colleges are the same and no two students are the same, then no two college experiences are the same. Don’t do things because you think you need to in order to live the “college experience”. Do things because you personally desire to do them.
Know who you want to be
I’m not talking about what you want to do, or the profession that you want to be. If you’re anything like me that’ll change every year. However, we can know who we want to be before stepping onto the college campus. By this I mean knowing what you value, what you consider priorities, how you want to treat others etc. Knowing these things will help you stay grounded and protected against social and academic pressures.
You become the people you hang out with
My mom used to nag me about this every hour of every day, but to her credit it really helped me through high school and college. You hang out with kind people, you subsequently become a kind person yourself. You spend your time with people that work hard, and you by virtue of proximity will become a hard worker. You surround yourself with people that love God, and you will start developing a deeper love for the Father.
Don’t be confined to the campus!
One of the allures of American University is it’s location within the District. The proximity to the embassies, the monuments, the museums and coffee shops are second to none. The issue however is that when classes pick up and club responsibilities increase, it becomes really easy to be confined to the university!
One must be intentional and committed about going into the city. Incorporate city life into your daily routine. Instead of studying on campus, go study in a coffee shop. Instead of working out at the school gym, go jogging in a park. A city has much more to offer than simply tourist attractions.
Cutting costs will catch up with you
Lets face it. We’re poor college kids. We crave home cooking because we can’t afford to cook anything more expensive than ramen packets. Why wouldn’t we? It costs 25c to buy a pack of ramen, so you could eat three meals a day for less than a dollar!
However, I learned through a series of unfortunate events that eating a pack of ramen costs more than 25c, it’ll cost several hundred dollars in medical bills. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think you should live beyond your means; so don’t go watching a movie with friends every night if you can’t afford it. But for things such as health, and dieting, don’t cut costs. Buy vegetables and fruits even if they are more expensive than pasta and microwave meals.
One of the things you’ll notice when you walk on campus is that everyone seems to have two majors, an internship and a job. After a week of classes, when you try to get-together with your group members for a group project, you’ll realize that NOBODY has time!
I always find that the best way to enjoy life, is by spending time in rest. You can’t enjoy the world and all of God’s creation if you never take the time to look up from your textbook to smell the roses. It’s so important that God made it a commandment. So make an attempt to rest. Prioritize rest. You do not want to get to the point where you need rest because you’re close to burning out.