The way we recognize and live our faith online is funny sometimes. When we post online, we have a bit more time between thinking of the message we wish to convey and executing it.
As such, we often craft the image of ourselves that we’d like to present with a lot more intention. Sometimes that can feel a little fake—but its not wrong, I think, to be deliberate in how we convey ourselves through a medium as permanent as Facebook and Instagram and Twitter.
On the same note, there’s also a renowned invincibility—or at least, a bolstering of protective factors—that we experience when we post online. It has something to do with anonymity, occasionally—but when our name is behind our words, we still enjoy the freedom from pressures that arise from being face-to-face with someone, or in a group of people. Through the Internet, we don’t have to respond right away to things, so we feel more comfortable making stronger claims; we don’t have to experience potential awkwardness in real time, and we are accordingly emboldened.
As such—and I mean this in all sincerity—social media and online interactions can be a truly excellent place to manifest our faith. I know that I’m an avid Twitter user, and very often when I’m composing a Tweet with a grateful tone, I end up reconsidering terms like “I’m thankful” or “I’m fortunate,” and often end up focusing on “I’m very blessed.” It’s a small change, but a very intentional one. The little things in my life are blessings, and thanks belong to God. I don’t think of that enough in everyday conversation; the extended time of typing out a post allows me to remember and recognize that.
It goes even deeper than that. Back to Twitter—a lot of the work I do (I’m an NFL Draft analyst) lends itself to disagreement. Disagreement, especially on social media, lends itself to arguments. Arguments breed potshots, low blows, name-calling, and other such instinctual tactics when we feel the threat of being wrong in front of others. That’s the other edge of the sword when it comes to being protected through anonymity, I suppose—most people with whom I interact online, I’ll never meet in real life. So shooting from the hip holds very few tangible consequences to me.
By that same token, however, I’m more likely to speak out when I’m upset in person, because I feel it more immediately, more viscerally. I feel as if I have less control. Through social media, I certainly feel the desire to comment on someone’s politically-charged post with my own opinions—but what good does that add to the world? And when someone gets snarky or condescending in the comments section on one of my takes, I could easily roast and embarrass them—but how does this benefit my Christian life (and their life, Christian or otherwise)?
We’re constantly told of the dangerous of interacting on social media and through the Internet—rightfully so, as it has its pitfalls and traps. We are meant to be living images of Christ, however, and we shouldn’t use the difficulties of online interactions to recuse ourselves from that responsibility. The very process of typing instead of speaking gives us time—more time to think about what we’re saying, how we’re saying it, and why we’re saying it. You have the opportunity to gear that time positively, to convey a clearer message of the Christ that lives through you. Every day, I try to take that opportunity—I hope that you do, too.
This month, Ben asked us to write about why you (as a future first year college student or maybe a transfer to a new school) should make the presence of an on-campus OCF a priority as you choose the place you’ll spend the next four or so years. Now, I can already hear you thinking (because it’s what I thought when I was in your shoes), “Why the sam hill should that matter? I don’t need an OCF; sure it’d be nice, but I’m not going to let it influence my school choice that much.”
Au contraire, my friend.
Maybe Orthodoxy has just been something you take part in because your parents want you to, or “it’s just what we do on Sundays”, or maybe it was something you did as a kid and kinda grew away from as you got older and started to make more decisions on your own. Maybe you’re already incredibly invested in Orthodoxy, already know you’re picking a school with an OCF, and this post is redundant for you. No matter what boat you’re in, if you take nothing else from this post, take the idea of giving OCF a chance, cause it might just surprise you.
At least for me, one of the most simultaneously thrilling and terrifying things about moving to college was the fact that I knew absolutely no one. Conveniently, OCF is a marvelous place to meet people and make new friends! Whoo friendship!
From time to just hang out and enjoy your newfound freedom, to late-night talks that shape the way you see the world and open your eyes to truths you never imagined, the friends you make in OCF bring with them lifelong connections and endless possibilities.
Now, if you fall into the category of people who aren’t really that invested in Orthodoxy or haven’t really gone to church in a while, fear not. At least to my mind, OCF is a lot less intimidating than going to a service. No tetas or yiayiás or babushkas eyeing you down, no priest or khouria asking where you’re from and if you’ll be coming regularly. It’s just a bunch of other college students looking to learn and find fellowship.
Plus, if you really start looking into the theology and academic side of Orthodoxy, mother of pearl, there an insane amount of information to sink your teeth into! When I wasn’t so sure about Orthodoxy and really questioning whether or not I could in good faith (all puns intended) commit myself, I found that delving into the foundations and core tenets of the faith helped me find resolution and direction.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that OCF has a pretty wide range of facets. Whether you’re looking for people to hang with, information about Orthodoxy, a place to come home to, or down time from the insanity of classes, OCF has it. Give it a chance, and it might just surprise you. OCF is to college as cayenne is to Mexican hot chocolate. The final product might be A-OK, but without it, you can just tell something is missing.
Kiara (like the Lion King II) Stewart is a senior art major at Alfred University, is a member/organizer of the Rochester OCF and is trying to start a new chapter in Alfred!! When she’s not covered in clay in the studio, Kiara likes to spend her free time reading, hiking, and hanging out with the Amish.
On this blog, we do a superb job talking about and giving advice for the daunting transition from high school to college. It’s a big change, most likely unlike anything you’ve experienced in your young life so far. OCF welcomes you with open arms to college life, providing a safe haven of friends, faith, and Jesus. I don’t need to tell you more — you can read about it here, here, and here.
What we don’t talk about too much on this blog is transitioning out of college and into the “real” world. As I prepare to graduate in five short weeks, I’m beginning this new phase of transition. I feel ready to move on after I receive my diploma because of OCF.
OCF taught me how to go to church on my own. It connected me with priests and friends at my college that made the task much less daunting. If you’re like me, the church you grew up in became like your second home; the parish your second family. To enter such a close knit environment as a foreigner is awkward and little scary. Through OCF, I’ve church hopped in the best possible way, both at school and various retreats and events. I’ve been exposed to various jurisdictions, chanting and singing styles, different ethnic traditions. OCF has made me more comfortable with Orthodoxy holistically, not just my isolated parish or jurisdiction.
OCF gave me friends. We have a running joke on the SLB that “OCF gives you friends,” but it really is true! I have friends from my chapter whom I’m blessed to see on an almost daily basis, friends from OCF events I joyfully reunite with at College Conference or Real Break, friends from the SLB I drive or fly long distances to see. I’m moving to Mobile, Alabama (you know, the Ortho-hub of America) after graduation. My spiritual advisor for OCF knows the priest at the only Orthodox church there, and one of my friends from my chapter and the SLB has a cousin who goes to that church. The Orthodox world is already tiny, and OCF just extends your reach even more.
OCF helped me grow as a person. Through my various roles in OCF, I’ve become a more self-confident person. I use to be cripplingly self-conscious and care much too much about what other people thought of me. Through the people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve formed, and the immense pouring of God’s love upon me, I am more comfortable with myself than I’ve ever been. I feel well-established in my faith, confident to go out in the world beyond the edges of college, to turn from Orthodox college student to Orthodox young professional.
I could go on and on about how OCF has been exceptionally transformative in my life; the heart of my college experience. But I leave you with just these three in the hopes that you, too, will reap the benefits of OCF. Join your local chapter, go to a retreat, apply to the SLB. OCF has so much to offer if you just give of yourself and trust in God.
Transitions are THRILLING! The transition to college from high school is like sitting on top of a roller coaster, waiting for the carts to drop. That stomach lurch can either be exciting or terrifying, but knowing what to expect makes that drop easier, and the ride more enjoyable. So here are my top tips of how to prepare for college, and a little of what to expect.
What Are You Getting Yourself Into?
Those SATs are finally over and all of your college letters are back. Whew! When deciding between schools to go to, check out to see if they have an OCF and a church close to campus. Having an Orthodox community of students, and getting involved witha church, will set a solid foundation for your time in college, and help establish a lifestyle to take with you for the rest of your life. College is the first time many of us are on our own. We have to freedom to make our own habits. It’s much easier to go to church on Sunday morning if we have some OCF friends to keep us accountable and go get brunch with afterwards. OCF friends are a support system. We are all there to be there for one another.
Plus, OCF is an instant friend group in a new school!
Get to know when your OCF meets, join the Facebook page, and get in the habit of being plugged in right off the bat.
P.T.L. (Praise/Prioritize The Lord)
I’m a runner. If I don’t jog first thing in the morning, I end up sitting around the house and procrastinating other things I have to do. Anyone who’s a runner, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
My point is, that if we prioritize to get our mornings or weeks off on the right foot, most other things will follow. On mornings when I wake up early and run, I usually am more productive with my work. Likewise, prioritizing going to church on Sunday morning sets my week up on a good start. You have the freedom to prioritize what you want in college. 🙂
Find out where the Orthodox churches are close to campus. Don’t have a car? Find a carpool buddy (these often turn into brunch buddies–yum) from OCF. If you can’t find an OCF friend to carpool with, reach out to the church–parishioners love to help give rides to college students.
Sidenote: have fun and make post-liturgical traditions with your OCF friends!! My current tradition is getting iced coffees and donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts with my friends after church. (#teamdunkin)
Be a double-stuffed Oreo. In other words, make the most of what resources ya got in college. Why be a single stuff if you can be a double stuff? OCF has so many opportunities outside of your campus. Over winter break, you can attend College Conference, and over spring break you can do Real Break! These are fun ways to meet friends cross-country and to travel.
I’ll say it again, but having Orthodox friends is such a blessing and a strong support system that will be with you way past your days of English 101.
Oh yeah, do other stuff too! Enjoy college. Go to basketball game for free. Join clubs. That stuff is more good double stuff, too.
I Got Into One College So…
I got into only one college too guys! It’s somewhat refreshing, having that decision made for you (even though I ended up transferring, it was still okay). If you were like me, your college might not have an OCF. This could be your calling to take action and make an OCF for yourself and students to come! Thankfully the OCF website has AMAZING resources of how to set up an OCF. Reach out to the OCF team, they are great resources. You could build the foundation for generations to come.
Maybe there’s an OCF, but it’s inactive. I have also experienced this when I transferred schools. A tip I give to anyone getting OCF active is to make a schedule. Pick a weeknight and hold consistent meetings at that time each week. Reach out to the nearby parish priests or youth directors to help lead and facilitate meetings. Slow starts can be discouraging, but the key to this is being consistent in meeting. OCF will grow gradually. And keep getting the word out. 🙂 You are not alone if you are waiting to make your OCF stronger, and many people here at OCF who can help out.
When I was little I thought my parents were the wisest folks in the world. And then I turned 17 and suddenly they knew NOTHING and I knew EVERYTHING.
It wasn’t until college when I started thinking my parents were smart again.
Maybe you have always had a strong relationship with you parents, but if you were anything like me, high school years could be a bit of duel between us. Something happens in college when you’re buddies again. I think college can humble us, and we suddenly realize we don’t know everything. Call your parents, they most likely have experienced many of the things you will go through in college, and talking to them when you need help is a great way of growing your relationship with your parents.
Parents are our number one fans. Keep close to them. Let them support you.
Find quiet time, and learn to say no (no mo FOMO).
There’s a geology study group on Wednesday! And then all your friends are going out for Chinese food. And Friday after class your friends are grabbing coffee and then hitting the basketball game.
There are SO many things going on in college: social and academic stuff. Let me tell you something, you won’t miss anything if you say no.
Definitely get involved, meet friends, and go to class–BUT! You have the power to say no sometimes. No mo FOMO. There will be plenty of opportunities to hang with friends. You need your time too. Some of the most rewarding moments in college that I had were walks all by myself, eating lunch outside in peace and quiet on a nice day, etc… It’s good slow down, and just have some quiet time.
It’s ok. Your paper will get done. And your friends will go out for Chinese food again. You’re not missing out.
So, as you may have noticed, the Blog Contributor posts for the month of February have focused on the transition from high school to college. Since my younger sister is currently making this transition herself, it has definitely been on my mind a lot these past few weeks and months. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the college experience, especially since I’m still a university student and struggling to make it through myself. But, this being said, since I’m currently a junior (finals are in two months—what?!), I hope to offer to any high school student reading this a few words about what I’ve learned over these few short years.
1. Treasure these last few months.
It’s no secret that, if you’re reading these words right now as a high school student, your life is about to do a full 180-degree twist. Please, use this time wisely, and enjoy every moment you have now. Spend lots of time with your family and friends. Your first year of college will likely be the busiest year so far of your life, so enjoy that free time. Finally, if you’re already been accepted into college, you’re probably super-excited and focused on that right now; but keep fighting that battle, and finish high school strong.
2. Enjoy the time now, but also plan ahead.
I hope I don’t sound like I’m contradicting myself, but while taking the time to appreciate these last few months you have as a high school student, also be sure to take the time to plan ahead. Does your school have an OCF chapter? You can check that out here. Do you know which church you’ll be attending while away at college? The time to make these decisions really is right now, and not the first Saturday when you’re away at school. Also, be sure send an introductory email ahead of time to the priest at the church you’ll be attending while at college! As the daughter of a priest, I can tell you that, if you contact your clergy ahead of time, it will totally make their day. Plus, it will make you feel a little more at home when you get there!
Going to OCF meetings has been one of my favourite parts of college
3. It’s about your time to grow up and make your own decisions.
Most likely, unless your circumstances were exceptional, going away to college (or even entering college and staying at home) will be the first time that you are able to make decisions completely for yourself. That’s a really exciting thing! So, go and try something new. The experiences that you have now might never be available to you again, so take advantage of them. We all know that college is about more than the classes you take, so make wise use of the extracurricular opportunities that come your way.
4. But, it’s about more than you. Sorry.
I’ve heard so many people tell me that college is all about me. My classes, my choices, my life. However, the world is never going to be all about you, and the decisions you make will always have an impact on others. Don’t let anyone ever fool you into believing the myth that these years are for worrying about yourself and that somehow things will work out later. College represents only about four years of your life, but the relationships you have with your friends, your family, and with God are forever. If we neglect these relationships in college, then we risk going down a selfish and self-destructive path.
So, my advice to you is to let this time be self-forming but not self-focusing. Use these years to become the most kind, loving, and giving person you can be. The college experience will leave us all as suddenly as it came along, but the decisions we make in college will not. I know this sounds scary, and it sometimes makes me pretty nervous, too, so I’ll leave you with these last words: college is a very stressful time, but in the midst of it all, if you focus on the One in Whom you put your trust, the world somehow seems a lot less frightening place after all.
Anastasia Lysack in her third year of her Music degree at the University of Ottawa. She attends Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa, where she teaches Sunday School and sings in the choir. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, volunteering, and visiting just about any coffee shop in the city of Ottawa.