The plug-in site for students in York at college or university connecting with the Churches of York

York feels like home for Vanessa

September 26, 2011

I still remember what it was like to leave my home in Edinburgh to start my time at York University. I was SO ready to leave after watching all my friends trickle off weeks before me; York University's October start date certainly made me more than eager to get there! I finally moved into my little room in 'old' Goodricke College and waved goodbye to my parents. My room was small, the breeze blocks were imposing but I was happy to be there and quickly got to know my 15 other corridor mates. Saturday night was an exciting and surreal time with block parties and dancing on the kitchen table...

Sunday Morning on my first proper morning at University I knew I really wanted to go to church. By this stage I had not had time to explore campus or try and find the Christian Union however, before I left I had posted on the CU facebook page and a third-year student in my college CU had made contact with me. She gave me her number and having this contact on my arrival in York was a great help. I texted her and she arranged for me to meet two second-year students and go to church with them. It was difficult getting up and leaving behind my new friends (even though most were still asleep!) but I wanted to start my time at York with the right priorities and I knew that going to church was to be a big part of my new life at university. That first Sunday was a mark of what was to follow in my three years; the service was so different to anything I had experienced before but God reassured me of His hand over my new chapter and continued to challenge, shape and push me out of my comfort zone.

During the rest of Freshers' week I was able to meet the Christian Union who were a massive encouragement with their bold and shameless gazebo in the centre of campus! Through the CU I quickly met lots of Christians and forged many strong friendships which continue to bless and encourage me now. I was also able to 'church search' with the CU as older students led us round some of the many churches in York. I prayed during this period of searching that God would lead me to the right church and before the end of my first term in York I settled at York Community Church. Settling at a church before the Christmas holidays was important for me and I quickly started to feel at home in York.

On campus, I was able to make great friends through the CU, in my flat and on my course. I studied music and was blessed with an incredibly sociable department. All these things made me feel at home and I had never had so many Christian friends. At university my friends become like my family. There is something in the new experience of independent living which brought us closer to each other quickly. For everyday problems or celebrations my friends and I would support each other, building our own community. Having close accountable friendships shaped me immeasurably in my first year of university and taught me of God's faithfulness and provision.

And there is nothing like church! On reflection I can see that my church in York had the biggest influence on making me feel at home in this city. I quickly got involved in music and kids work and even dressed up as an elf for the Christmas party! My experience of settling at church was a two way process. I distinctly remember making an effort to step outside my comfort zone and meet people whilst at the same time members of the congregation were welcoming me into the community. It is important to be bold and courageous in a new situation and take responsibility for getting to know a church but I hope and pray that the church also takes on their bit of responsibility in welcoming students.

 In my church I was really made to feel part of a family and was blessed by the many different members of my church. As a student I was welcomed in, loved and encouraged and made to feel valued and was always touched by comments after the holidays 'oh we've missed you!' As a student it is easy to spend all our time with our peers and forget that people outside of the 18-23 age bracket exist! At church I got to know older couples,  children, families and young professionals and was welcomed into this community. I felt such a part of the church  and therefore very at home in York.

So, to any student about to start their university adventure I would say: be bold! There are many systems and ideas in place to help you in your walk with God at university but you will have to step out in confidence yourself. Find the Christian Union and get yourself to a church. It can be hard to do these things especially when you are the only person in your corridor getting up and going out on a Sunday morning or to a CU meeting on a Saturday night, but God will reward your courage. Being sure of your priorities right from the beginning is important and I cannot describe how great it is to find your York church family. God is so faithful and has a plan for your time at university just trust Him and find your place! 

'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go' Joshua 1:9



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