I’ve had quite a few conversations with friends about the stagnancy of our faith while we’re at Wheaton. With chapel 3x a week, Christian professors, Bible studies, All-School Communion, and bro-sis worship, as well as a plethora of Christian friends, my faith is rarely tested or questioned. As a result, I was stagnant in my growth as a Christian; I never had to rely on God because I could rely on others around me to support and encourage me when needed support and encouragement. I have observed that my Christian friends at secular universities often seem more “on fire” for God, and I assumed that it was because they experienced an urgent need for the love of God on their campuses. Since being at Roehampton, I understand that need. In my first week, I even felt it like one would having a craving for sweets. One of the reasons I decided to study abroad this semester was because I wanted to be in an environment where I would have friends who had never heard about Jesus. Not only did I feel that God would use me to share His love with the students of Roehampton, I also hoped that I would experience what it truly means to rely on God, because I have nothing else to rely on. After less than two weeks here, I am already seeing what God has in store for me here in England.
The biggest adjustment by far has been getting used to being at a non-Christian, public university. Wheaton is a small Christian college, quite a difference from my 20,000-student secular university. That would be a big adjustment in itself, but add to it a legal drinking age of 18 and an entirely different approach to drinking than the US and boom—I am really overwhelmed here. However, God is providing so many opportunities for me to learn to love and serve my neighbours and I am loving it.
A little more on drinking: Alcohol is like water here—I even received a flyer from a student group at a church advertising a game night with free beer and wine. Drinking is just an accepted fact of university life. I literally have seen more drunk people this week than I’ve seen in my entire 20 years on earth. I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but my parents don’t drink and most of my friends at home don’t either. I’ve learned that people respect the choice not to drink. But being the only sober person in a group of people that are drinking is not always the most fun. However, I’m not letting that stop me from spending time with my friends that might be drinking. The other night, I played drinking Uno with my flatmates, but my drink of choice? Coffee. Good thing I won—the loser had to chug her drink 🙂 I am also blessed with some friends that won’t be drinking that much this semester—so thankful for them. Needless to say, I am experiencing a different kind of lifestyle than the one practiced by most Wheaton students.
Despite the apathy towards religion that many of my classmates have, there are definitely Christians on campus with me. There is a chaplaincy that sponsors a student church and morning prayer meetings, an Alpha course for people wanting to ask questions, and Christian Union (similar to Campus Crusade or Intervarsity). There are also a number of churches in the area. I went to two yesterday, and met really nice people and heard really great teachings. I’m going to shop around a little bit more but pick one in the next week or two; I hope to get involved a bit and get to know some people that aren’t students.
All in all, despite the fact that anywhere between 50-60% of Brits don’t consider themselves religious, God is definitely present in the UK. I am so excited to see what He has in store for me this semester and am excited to get involved with some of the groups that are already doing great work for Him here.
Cheers! Thanks for reading.