Back to School: Staying Connected to What Matters
Transitioning to college or graduate school for the first — or third — time can uproot you physically, mentally and spiritually. It’s important to remember the things that will help you stay grounded and make these life changes some of the best experiences of your life.
Church. Before moving to college, I had always gone to church with my parents, every Sunday without missing a beat. Now you’re on your own and it’s up to you to maintain that connection. When I started college, finding a church came easy because I go to a Catholic university with the physical church itself located less than a stone’s throw away from the dorm where I live. Find a nearby church and connect with the community, priest, and other young adults. You will discover a whole new circle of friends, and, if your schedule allows, you might check out other church activities or volunteer opportunities. Time spent in church can help center you especially during stressful periods (particularly during finals!). Church will provide a necessary break from academics as well as spiritual refreshment. Also, it can be so much more fulfilling if you choose to go on your own, rather than being pushed to attend by your parents.
Best Friends. College is definitely the time to meet new people and make tons of new friends. However, it is also a time to distinguish the friends you truly connect with and care enough about to keep in touch with when you’re away at college. Remember to call and check in on friends every once in a while, for they might be going through similar experiences in their college life as well. The bonds you make and keep long distance will usually be friendships that last for life.
Clubs. College isn’t just about going to class. Surprise! Take this time to reach out and meet people while doing something you love. You can do this by joining a club. Love sports? Join an intramural team. Passionate about social justice? Find an organization that’s working on an issue that fires you up. Looking to try something new? Find a club related to something you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Want to learn more about faith and spirituality? Check in with your campus ministry. There are clubs for everything (or you can start your own). You’ll make friends while having fun!
Mom and Dad. Your parents love you, despite shipping you off to college. Your sudden absence in the house can be quite a shocking change, even if mom and dad do not outright express it. Therefore, remember to check in every once in a while and tell them how you’re doing and ask about what’s going on in their lives as well. Your parents will appreciate it, and in the long run, so will you.
God. Simply put, God is there. Though college can be some of the best years of your life, it can also be some of your hardest. There are pressures — choosing and finalizing a major, transitioning into adulthood, surviving final exams, trying to find a path for the future, and more. In our toughest moments, the first person we can always talk with is God, who will be there to listen — no matter what. You might start a new prayer practice like the Daily Examen (here’s a how-to infographic) or one of the prayer ideas here in order to begin or deepen your conversations with God. Reflect and pray through difficult and joyful times. Celebrate and be thankful for the fun and enriching experiences of college.