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.
Photo by BlueField Photos via flickr
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.
In this series, “My OCF Story,” alumni share their experiences from their time in OCF and its impact on their transition and life in the post-grad real world.
Fr. Alexandros, Presbytera Stephanie, and their two sons, Niko and Chris
I graduated from Gordon College in 2008 with a degree in English and Secondary Education and I taught high school for a short time before attending Holy Cross Seminary for one year. I met my husband at an OCF retreat at Penn state in 2007, we were married in 2010, and we welcomed our first son in 2011. After getting married, I went back to work to help put my husband through seminary and was there until my husband graduated and was placed at a parish in Bethlehem, PA. Our second son was born about 6 months after we were placed and I am now a stay-at-home mom with my two sons, ages 4 1/2 and 1 1/2. In my spare time (which isn’t much), I help run our Moms & Tots group at church, I’m involved in the PTO at my son’s school (which is also our parish’s school), and I tutor to keep my foot in the door with education. My dream is to work at or help start an Orthodox School someday.
My most remarkable memory of OCF was at my first College Conference. I knew only two of the 200 or so students who were attending so I was a little nervous. But as I stood in church alongside all of these other college students, as I sat in discussion groups and listened to them asking questions, and as I got to know so many of them and their stories, I felt so encouraged in my faith. Up to that point I had a handful of Orthodox friends at church, some from camp, a few from my college, but it was hard not to feel a little alone in my faith. But being surrounded by so many other Orthodox young adults who were also striving to live a moral and faithful life in the midst of all of the temptations of college life, I felt an overwhelming sense of support and community. Those OCF friendships that I began forming that week carried me through the rest of my college experience.
Presbytera Stephanie on Real Break El Salvador
That leads me to how OCF has influenced my life. I was blessed to have a wonderful OCF at my college where we did daily morning prayers, weekly meetings, and frequent dinners and get togethers. I attended four College Conferences, served on the Student Advisory Board [now the SLB], and did Real Break El Salvador. And by my senior year of college, I was also traveling every other weekend or so to attend other colleges’ OCF retreats all over the northeast and sometimes beyond. The relationships that I built from all of these OCF events and programs are the people that I have relied on over the past almost 10 years. They are the ones who encouraged me in my faith, who helped me through difficult situations at work, and who stood up with me at my wedding–not to mention that I met the man I married at one of these OCF retreats 🙂 And it is because of all this that I also encouraged my sister and sisters-in-law to get involved in OCF and now, as a presbytera, the local college students at our parish. OCF played such a crucial role in strengthening me in my faith during the challenging college years and in fortifying me to go out into a world that does nothing but attack and challenge everything that we believe. And in a world where everything is focused on making money, getting ahead, and earning degrees, awards and recognition, OCF helped shift my focus and reminded me that my vocation should be centered on who I am (an Orthodox Christian), not what I am. For all of the retreats, programs, but most importantly the people OCF brought into my life, I am forever grateful.