Flashback to one year ago this spring: I was sitting in my dorm room when I got a call from my Regional Student Leader (RSL) telling me to apply for the OCF Student Leadership Board (SLB) and that I would make a great College Conference Student Leader. I wasn’t fully aware of what the SLB is, but I did know what College Conference was having attended myself in 2019. I had even thought about leading it before, but I was hesitant to apply since I was heading into the infamous junior year as both a music and mechanical engineering double major while also balancing many other extracurricular commitments. Despite my crazy schedule, and to the dismay of my mom who thought I was already overcommitted, I decided to apply anyway, trusting that it would all work out.
Fast forward to this past summer: I’m a counselor at the Antiochian Village (AV), I’m the new College Conference Midwest Student Leader, and I still have no idea how I’m going to balance my schoolwork, extracurriculars, and SLB work come the start of the semester. But, God has a way of helping us figure things out, and it just so happened that our theme as AV staff was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Coincidence? I think not.
Now, we’ve all heard that verse before, but I’m here to remind you of it and let you know that it is 100% true. All of the things you are doing now, you can continue doing along with the SLB because Christ will give you the strength to do it. That is what I have found to be true this past year, and I know it would be true for you too.
So that’s how you can do the SLB, but now the current SLB and I want to tell you why you should. The Student Leadership Board is a group of devout and talented Orthodox Christian college students devoted to serving their peers and responsible for carrying out the work of OCF. From planning events, connecting people, to implementing programming, most everything that OCF does gets touched by the students on the board. Below are quotes from the current SLB which have been sorted into 3 different categories: Life-Giving Relationships, True Service, Spiritual Development – 3 reasons why you should apply!
True Service: Being on the SLB means you will be actively carrying out the ministry of OCF.
“As the regional leader, I advise and support chapter presidents at each university. They’re the ones who run the engine of the day-to-day OCF life – the ones who can foster a nurturing environment for Orthodox Christian college students to grow in their faith. I also really liked being in a position to run the retreats for my region. I saw the potential for regional retreats to be a truly transformational time to encourage Orthodox students to live a life in Christ.” – Nathan Liu, Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Leader
“I love the close connection and mentorship that the OCF staff gives the SLB. I feel much more acquainted with the beginning-to-end process of creating ministry efforts than I did before I began. OCF provides so much support and resources that I feel confident that I am maximizing my contribution to the ministry.” – Evan Roussey, Real Break Student Leader
“I think I’ve been a strong reference point for my community as they reach out to young adults, and I think that my involvement has been able to help me reach out to my Orthodox friends who feel less connected in their college communities.”- Catherine Thompson, Northwest Regional Student Leader
Life Giving Relationships: You’ll build some of the deepest and most life giving relationships with the other SLBers, OCF Staff, and the peers you serve.
“One of my favorite parts about being on the SLB includes the amazing community. After connecting in Dallas I now have a nation-wide support system of fellow Orthodox Christians. I feel comfortable talking with anyone on the SLB about anything, because they are all amazing people.” – Elyssa Koutrodimos, Great Lakes Regional Student Leader
“I like the connection and closeness of the leadership board and being able to meet new people via my district student leaders and others.”– Kiki Gormanos, Southeast Regional Student Leader
“ Since joining the SLB, I have felt of one spirit with everyone, and has been one of the most life-giving things I have ever experienced. I know that everyone on the SLB and on staff are committed to the same mission, the same God, and that I am one member in a greater effort. Yes, we work together, but we also have become close friends.” – Evan Roussey, Real Break Student Leader
“I love the strong community of friends that I have all over the country. Even though we are hundreds or even thousands of miles away from each other, everyone feels like family. I am extremely grateful this past year to have developed relationships that are fulfilling, both mentally and spiritually. We are all devoted to helping each other become better Orthodox Christians, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to surround myself with.” – Danielle Rallis, Podcast Student Leader
“It has changed my college experience because I have met so many people around the country both from the board and working to create events, and from those I now have a network of Orthodox Christians that I connect with on a very deep level. “-Thomas Retzios, Video Student Leader
“I have always been a very reflective person. I always wanted to have a place to have conversations and open discussions about young adults in the Orthodox Church. I hoped to get, as well as give, more insight about the reality of how Orthodox Christians use their faith, and how we can all grow in our spiritual journey. As podcast student leader, I have been put in a position to think about the faith on a more consistent basis. I hoped this would happen, as now it has become more habitual to not only think about my own spiritual life, but how we are young adults in the church are all trying to learn how to develop a stronger faith.” – Danielle Rallis, Podcast Student Leader
“Being part of the SLB has shown me how to take the gifts I have received from God and begin to put them to use. I integrate what I learn in school into the responsibilities that I have on the SLB; contributing to the SLB and OCF ministries has taught me how to participate more intentionally in the other parts of my life such as music and social life. I feel a sense of contribution and momentum; my efforts in academic, personal, and spiritual spheres all feel related. I thank God for that and know that the SLB was the key to integrating my experiences, equally for the tasks that it asked of me and the people that it gave me to share my life with.” – Evan Roussey, Real Break Student Leader
“It can be easy to feel inadequate, but remember you (especially in a leadership role on the SLB) have the potential to change someone’s life in an instant. If you ever feel deficient in any way, never forget that God has given everyone countless, daily opportunities to share His love with each other and to draw closer to Him together. Every moment has the potential to be transformed into something beautiful – whether it be holding a two hour conversation on the phone with someone you hardly know or a 15 minute, positive interaction you had on a zoom call. I have had many opportunities where someone changed my life in a matter of minutes. When you open your heart to this possibility, approach every relationship and pray, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace…”– Magdalena Hudson, Publications Student Leader
After reading all of this, I’ll assume you’re thoroughly convinced that being on the SLB is a life-changing experience to do Christ’s work, so I cordially invite you to apply. Please do not hesitate to reach out to myself or any of the current SLBers with any and all questions you might have. Descriptions of each position are listed within the applications found below. So apply, just do it.
Elias is a Junior at Valparaiso University studying music and mechanical engineering. He loves to lead his OCF chapter and will be serving as next year’s SLB chairman. When he’s not working on schoolwork, he enjoys playing his trumpet or guitar, beating his friends in ping pong, and laughing unnecessarily hard at marginally funny things. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have officially been cooped up in my house for a week, but that’s not the worst part: this was supposed to be my spring break, so not only am I stuck at home but my mom is here, too. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom; she’s really cool. However it’s been way too many days of just each other’s company. I have found myself hiding away in my room losing hope for the rest of the academic year while the rest of the world around me is in chaos.
My mom has been reading a lot to pass the time and recently read a book called Time and Despondency. This title seems perfect for this occasion because not only do I have way too much time on my hands, but I am despondent. What is despondency? According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, despondency is “being in extremely low spirits; loss of hope; depression.” Now, my despondency started with me being bored and sad because I am stuck inside and couldn’t go on vacation. But as I was listening to other people complain about how tired they were and how sad they were that things are getting cancelled and that they have to stay inside, it further saddened me that so many more people are also feeling a sense of despondency (even though it was also nice to know I wasn’t alone in my feelings). It wasn’t until recently when churches started closing their doors and services were getting cancelled that I realized the severity of this situation. The loss of church, especially during Lent, a time where I needed it most, was really hard for me. My sadness and tiredness have escalated. I am despondent.
Then something happened; God knew what I needed to hear. I accidentally came across a quote from St. Barsanuphius of Optina, and it was exactly what I needed. “You need not be despondent. Let those be despondent who do not believe in God. For them sorrow is burdensome, of course, because besides earthly enjoyment they have nothing. But believers must not be despondent, for through sorrows they receive the right of sonship, without which is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” It made me realize: yes, our current situation isn’t fun, and yes, I am so bored being cooped up in my house, but we have so much to look forward to. Because we believe in God, we know that even in this time of social distancing and quarantine we are loved by Him who is Himself Love. We know that even in our sufferings Christ won’t abandon us. We know that even when we feel “extremely low” someone is going to be there to catch us.
My dearest friends, now is not the time to be despondent. It is time to do things that benefit your soul and your health. Go on a walk, clean your room, call a friend, and pray. There are so many things we can do to be active during this time. Remember, there are people out there who have no hope. We must be the examples to show that Christ is our hope. We need to remind the people that God is our refuge, and He will keep us safe according to His will. As St. Barsanuphius said, through sorrows we can be in closer communion with Christ.
I am challenging myself to be respondent and not despondent; hopeful and not hopeless. I hope you will join me in this challenge of responding to those around us and praying for the peace of the world. People are scared, but we know that Christ has so much joy to offer in the salvation we yearn for. So, let us respond in love and let us support one another, we will get through this together and with Christ.
As always feel free to reach out to me anytime at email@example.com, especially now in this time of quarantine: I am quite bored and would love to chat.
Publications Student Leader
Hi, I am Evyenia Pyle, and I am the publications student this year! I am in my second year of college studying speech and hearing sciences! I play 12 instruments as of right now, and in my free time I play with my dog. I am really excited about this upportunity. Never hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, or if you are interested in writing a blog! firstname.lastname@example.org .
Every kid has a dream job. Whether they want to grow up to be a doctor, veterinarian, ballerina, athlete, astronaut, scientist, a mom, a dad, or even the president, it is up to them to choose a path to follow. We, as college students, are in the ‘refinement’ section of choosing what we want to do, where we want to work and for whom we want to work. But, our human hearts crave more for our careers, we don’t just want a job, we want meaning in our work and in our lives.
Vocation is a word commonly discussed among Orthodox college students often in the context of where they want to work in the future. Let’s take a second to learn what it really means. Vocation comes from the Latin word, vocare or “to call,” therefore, vocation itself doesn’t refer to your future job, but to your actual God-given calling: to love. God calls us all to: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Vocation runs so much deeper than the job you hold or will hold.
God calls for us to become like Him, to “take up our crosses and follow Him” (Matthew 16:24). But what does that mean for us college students? It means we have to live our whole lives in God, and no matter where the journey of college takes us, following Him will always be the goal. Look at the saints! They were able to do follow Christ, all while being themselves, each on their own path. The saints led their lives celebrating their individual talents and skills as doctors, army officials, chefs, monks, bishops, emperors, mothers, fathers, and Christ, too, was a carpenter!
Luckily, our God knows us all so intimately, and He has bestowed on all of us that same calling. Your life is not going to be a straight line, there are going to be hundreds of twists and turns and sometimes you might really have no clue where to go. If you accept your vocation (to love the Lord and your neighbor) everything else in your life will fall into place, not your way, but His way. His way may not be the way you always saw yourself going–its pretty much never going to happen that way.
For me, when I decided I wanted to become a doctor, I could retrace my steps to the conversations and experiences that pushed me to be where I am today. But along the way, I had no clue how to distinguish any sign from the background noise, everything was just happening all at the same time and I was just trying my best the whole time. Today, I still don’t know where my choice will take me, but I am excited for every step of my journey, and I have faith that the Lord’s will be done. Ask me again in five years if I knew where I would be standing at that point, here’s a hint: I HAVE NO CLUE. If life was that predictable, it’d be boring.
And while modern times have made us value money and status above all else, a word of caution from the wise–do not let your job be the foundation of your identity. If you let your job become your source of self-worth and you begin to see people in terms of their salaries, you may be allowing your career to become your idol. Instead, ground yourself in Christ Jesus, and perform your job, no matter what it may be, with love and for His Glory.
Being a college student is not an easy feat: It’s a balancing act on a tightrope. You have to balance classes, friends, family, extracurriculars, and church into a minuscule 24 hours. But, this is your time you get to balance it all on your own and you owe it to yourself to do a great job.
You have the ‘nutrients’ and ‘soil’ you need from home, which allowed you to start growing, now that you are in a new ‘pot’ you can more fully grow into who you are as a person.
Let’s continue with a few more common problems freshman students face, and some advice as to how to overcome them. These problems are attributed to mycollegeguide.org.
Problem #3 Financial Issues
College is expensive. Financial issues can be difficult to navigate. Finances are a huge factor when making decisions and choosing where you go to school. It can get stressful but it is something you can work through and overcome to get the education that you want.
Get help if you need it. All schools have a financial aid office, and they are experts in answering any and all of your questions.
Talk to someone. Talk to your parents if you need to help solve something out. The stress associated with financial problems can be really difficult.
Be thankful. Practice gratitude for the things you have. Don’t forget to thank God every day for the blessings you receive! This advice will help change your outlook on life if practiced consistently.
Get a job! Most schools have work-study programs, and a lot of college towns have jobs for students. Just make sure to balance it properly as to not let your grades suffer as a result.
Problem #4 Problems With Choosing Your Major
Choosing your major is a big decision that can help set your path in life. Some people are born knowing what they want to study while for others its a gradual revelation. Your major is a decision that you should take your time with and be sure about, but know that your job and your life after college won’t be limited by the classes you take in college.
Don’t be afraid to explore. Most majors, unless you are in a specific track, have a lot of flexibility that allows you to take classes that you are interested in different.
Think ahead, if you know there is a specific major you want to get into, speak to advisors and take classes related to it so that you don’t have to lose time studying something you don’t want to.
Ask for help. Many saints are patrons of education and in their divine wisdom, they can offer prayers to help you with your decision. Pray to saints like St. Katherine or the Three Hierarchs: St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian. They will help if you ask for it!
Challenges are opportunities for growth! Take stress, channel it and use it to grow. College is a time to learn about yourself and mold yourself into the person you want to become.
College, while it may be fun, is a challenging part of our lives. There is so much personal, social, spiritual, physical, and emotional change that students undergo. It is so tempting to clutch to the bit of stability we hold onto from our high-school lives, which is great, but there is a point where you have to know where and when to let go and allow yourself to grow.
You have the ‘nutrients’ and ‘soil’ you need from home, which allowed you to start growing, now that you are in a new ‘pot’ you can more fully grow into who you are as a person.
Let’s begin with a few common problems freshman students face, and some advice as to how to overcome them. These problems are attributed to mycollegeguide.org.
Problem #1 Homesickness/Loneliness
This is a problem that gradually arises for many college freshmen especially after the shiny “newness” of the school begins to fade. Everything around you is different and that can make you long for the familiarity, comfort, and closeness of your home family and friends.
A good way to deal with this problem is to try and establish a routine for yourself. This includes eating breakfast most days, working out (which will help against the dreaded freshman 15), and going to bed at a reasonable time most days.
Don’t be afraid to call your family. I am a senior in college, and I still talk to my mom and dad every single day. You would be surprised how much stronger your relationship with your parents gets with regular, real communication. They are your strongest supporters!
I recommend bringing a piece of home with you, like pictures of your family and friends. Reach out to your home friends too, they are probably also experiencing similar feelings about being in a new place and a conversation can really help dissolve some of those negative feelings.
You can always pray! Jesus, His Mother, and His Saints all felt times of loneliness during their times on earth. Ask your patron saint for a bit of help. Having an icon of them and praying to them can feel like a spiritual ‘hug’ that can really help in times of need. St. Anthony went out into the desert alone, and he must have felt lonely sometimes!
Problem #2 Poor Time Management & Organizational Skills
Poor time management is a skill that will never go away. Time is one of the most valuable resources that we as students have and it is all too often in short supply. For all you type ‘A’ OCFers out there, organizing things can be cathartic in and of itself–use that energy to your advantage!
I reiterate the importance of establishing a routine. It really helps you maximize your time if you know how you are spending it, and using it effectively. It forces you to know your schedule and know when you have to get work done.
Keep a journal or assignment notebook. So many classes nowadays have numerous online components with seemingly random due dates and times. YOU NEED TO WRITE THOSE DOWN! Keeping a written record will keep you accountable and will help ensure that you meet those deadlines, plus that feeling of checking off a task that you have finished is so relieving.
Put the phone away. You know what I mean when I say this. Homework and phones don’t mix in a very productive way.
Set priorities. Part of the reason we may feel that we don’t have time for things is actually due to our priorities. If we prioritize our social lives more than our academic lives, our grades can suffer. Remember that you are going to university to learn, and that should be your priority.
Feeling homesick is natural. Organization is a skill that people are constantly working on. You have time to solve these problems, so use them as an opportunity to grow. All freshmen are going through similar situations use that situation as a means to bond with others, you’re not on this journey alone!