Going to university is about much more than your certificate or degree. For everyone, experiences on campus are formative, either positively or negatively. While we all go to campus to study different courses, we find that we are motivated by different things. People explore ideologies, toy with freedom as with a fire, make mistakes, enjoy new experiences, and find life-long friends.
On campus we come face to face with different ways of seeing the world.
In retrospect, I have seen that the campus experience is a mixture of both highs and lows, as it matches the experience of the young adult years. In spiritual matters, at this stage, we are trying to figure out “what works for us.” Whether we may have been brought up in church, or brought up in a religionless household, on campus we come face to face with different ways of seeing the world. We wrestle with questions such as: Who am I? Is there meaning in life? Are all religions the same? What should I do with my life?
On one extreme, at a surface level, these questions may be pursued with a spirit of rebellion. At a deeper level, they reveal our deep human longings, which were made to be filled by God alone. Below, and far from exhaustive, are a few ways to make sure you get the most out of your time at university.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
African societies typically defer to older generations. Therefore asking questions is sometimes interpreted as disrespectful. Granted, there are ways in which we ask questions with pride or overly youthful zeal. Experience usually has a way of hewing these rough edges off. However, asking questions about our origin, about existence, purpose, and destiny are at the heart of human life. And they are a normal part, especially of late teenage and young adulthood, the ages that define the campus experience. If you find yourself or your friend asking questions, you are not alone. Nor are you weird.
Behind our biggest questions are concerns that can only be met by Jesus Christ.
In the Gospels we find Jesus addressing people’s questions. These questions were informed by very many different life circumstances, religious or irreligious beliefs, political standpoints, and even emotional happenings. Whether it was the doubt of Thomas, the marginalisation of the Samaritan woman, the pride of Pilate, or the spiritual search of Nicodemus, Jesus always pointed people to the truth and grace that he personified (John 1:12). The reality is that behind our biggest questions, there are underlying motivations or concerns that can only be met by Jesus Christ.
Aim at Education not merely Qualification
Perhaps this second point serves to widen our perspective. In my own experience, the extracurricular activities that I engaged in during my campus years were more formative than the official certification I was awarded at the end. In the classical sense, education is not only a matter of remembering facts from outside. It is a process of bringing out from within. I learnt foundational principles for an Engineering career. But it was campus that pointed me to my great need for the Saviour.
Through the temptations that lured me I learned that I was enslaved to sin. It was through eventually reading 1 John that I encountered, in a renewing way, the majesty of Jesus Christ. Here was the perfect one who not only modelled a perfect life, but lived it on my behalf and invited me to live in him through humble faith (1 John 2:1-2).
Through my campus experience I learnt about a world pregnant with the divine.
Yes, I learnt about different cultures and worldviews through the campus experience. But I also learnt about human nature and a world pregnant with the divine, through my experiences. Campus years happen through the “coming of age” stage of life, when young people are forming their own values, interrogating their worldviews and enriching their perspectives. So it is critical on campus to get more than a certificate.
Draw Near to the Christian Community
As you may have guessed from the above, my campus years were tumultuous. I had a crisis of faith while studying. With hindsight I think that could have been contained if I were involved in a community of faith. When asked why Jesus Christ is unique in light of other religions, some said “just believe.” But at that time of my life and intellectual quest, a period of searching, this was an inadequate answer. For those who may already be believers and are questioning their faith, a healthy local church can walk alongside you as you wrestle with particular aspects of the faith or difficult seasons of your Christian journey. You were called out from the world to be a part of a body of believers. In saving some God creates his Church (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
A local church can walk alongside you as you wrestle with particular aspects of the faith.
For the pastors or elders who may be reading this, it is crucial for us to offer our young people more than entertainment. While it is necessary to be sensitive to the various needs that young adults may bring to us, we must walk alongside them with both the grace and truth that are found in Jesus. Issues to do with identity, addictions, peer pressure, body image, and purpose are profoundly theological questions that demand deep theological answers.
Order Your Priorities and Ambitions
If you are a Christian, remember that a key part of what it means to live the Christian life is to grow in the knowledge and love of God (2 Peter 3:18). As a campus student, studying Biology, Algebra, Linguistics, Economics, Agriculture, or Religion, remember to be a student of the scriptures. It is a saddening reality in the Church to see a wide gap between people’s knowledge of human occurrences and people’s knowledge of the things of God. May our love of our subjects be unmatched by our love for God, and our service to him through them.
May our love of our subjects be unmatched by our love for God, and our service to him through them.
In fact, it is important on this point to recover our Protestant doctrine of vocation. Expanding on the truth of the priesthood of believers, the doctrine of vocation teaches that while pastoral ministry is special and important, so are other vocations. As Martin Luther says, “The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbour.” For Luther, and for the protestant heritage after him, work is divine.
Beyond getting the title of Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer, or Accountant, the ultimate aim is to serve God through serving others. This is a vital ministry in a world made by and for God.
Don’t Miss Out on God
As you go through this unique, one-time experience of campus life, I hope you see that your questions are welcome. However, these questions will reveal our deep human need. So turn to and ask God’s people to help you to face this season, by pointing you to God. Campus life can expand your love for your favourite subject. It can discourage you through the different challenges you may go through. But ultimately campus is more than a certificate, diploma or degree. For some of you, it will be the start of life-long friendships. More than that, I pray that it will be the beginning of an even greater friendship with the one who sticks closer than a brother. Get education but also get God. This will prepare you best for the life ahead.