Jennifer Hall wrote about her feelings for us last year, before starting her freshman year of college. Now, with that first year of college completed, Jennifer shares what she has learned. Are you heading off to college for the first time in the fall? Perhaps keeping the faith can help you on your journey.

by Jennifer Hall

Before going away to school at Temple University, I was afraid of leaving home for an unknown city far away. As a small-framed black woman, I had a lot of fears about living in North Philadelphia. Before attending Temple, I lived in Chicago, another big city, but since I lived with my aunt and uncle it didn’t seem so daunting. But living in a new city on my own was a completely new experience.

One way that I overcame my fears about this new challenge was building relationships with new people. After a couple of roommate changes (long story), I eventually found a roommate that I could get to know well. We ended up becoming great friends and even hung out together. The person you will be living with for the school year may be the first important relationship you have at school.

Another way to build relationships is connecting with other students through classes. Most of the time, if I started to make small talk with other students, I would get their Snapchat so we could talk about class work. This helped us both because sometimes we would remind each other of certain assignments. Sometimes we would have study dates to study for tests — or even meet outside of class! Making it a habit to talk to people around you about classes can benefit you and them. If they are doing well, they will be able to help you and if they are confused, being confused with someone else can also create a beautiful friendship. (Trust me.)

Get involved in extracurricular activities too! I enjoyed playing the flute, and Temple had a community concert band called the Night Owls Band. I also love natural hair and joined a group called CampusCurlz. I encourage you to join groups that you have interest in or have hobbies that you want to continue throughout your college career.

Finally, the best way I was able to build great relationships was at church. I was blessed to be able to continue my faith journey at Mediator Lutheran with Pastor Regina Goodrich. I had told her that I loved to sing, and I wanted to join the choir. With that connection, I was able to get a ride from my choir director – and sing and worship the Lord on Sundays! I made very close relationships with some of the choir members and have grown to love going to Mediator.

Another thing that I learned is that it’s okay to make mistakes. This may be your first time going off to live by yourself for a long period of time. Many people do not really understand this until they are in their dorm room looking around wondering, “now what?” But this is your time to learn about yourself without your parents being around you.

Now, I’m not saying that this is a great time to do something completely horrific that could be life threatening. What I’m saying is that as you are learning new things academically, you’ll try new things throughout college that you may like and you may dislike. Don’t be afraid to step outside of the box and get out of your comfort zone!

During my transition into my first year, I can honestly say that the power of prayer is amazing. You can either be the most stressed college student to the happiest, but always make time to thank God for where you are in life. First Chronicles 16:34 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s love endures forever.” Going to college is a privilege, and despite that, at times it will be difficult. Always remember that there are so many people who would love to be in the spot that you are in.

Overall, my first-year college experience was amazing. I was able to learn so many new things academically and new things about myself. I was able to meet and make new friends of different backgrounds who have already made an impact on my life. Not only this, but I was able to explore the city of Philadelphia! If you have the time, go out and explore your surroundings. God created a beautiful earth — go see the creations God has made.

Discussion questions:

1. Reflect on where you were last year and think of where you are now. How have you changed over time?

2. Have you learned any life lessons from the mistakes that you’ve made this past year?

3. Where have you built new relationships? (i.e. church, clubs, organizations)

Closing prayer:

Dear God, thank you for giving me the strength and tools to finish my first year of college. So many people are not able to do this and I’m grateful for this opportunity. I pray that everyone can have a safe and fun summer as they prepare for their next steps in their college careers. I also pray for the new incoming freshman who are excited and may be afraid in this new experience as I was last year. Keep them lifted up in spirit and surround their loved ones with security, as they may feel anxious for them too. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Jennifer Hall graduated high school last year with a 4.0 GPA. She just completed her Freshman year at Temple University with a 3.5 GPA, studying Psychology. She will be continuing her education at Temple this Fall.