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.
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.
There are a few major transitions in life that you know will change your life forever. Going to college is one of them. For anyone who commutes to college, perhaps the transition is not as stark (I wouldn’t know because I’ve only lived at school), but if you’re going from living at home your whole life to suddenly living in a dorm room with one or more strangers and taking care of yourself, there is absolutely no way to be fully prepared for it.
How could you be? You’ve never experienced anything like this before. You can’t go into it expecting to know every detail of how it will be.
Despite all this, I think I handled my transition pretty well. I figured out some of the things I did that worked, and others that didn’t. And here’s the thing: now that I’m a senior in college, I will be undergoing another one of these major changes, so I’m really writing this article to myself. All that being said, here’s Paul’s Guide to Major Life Transitions (Editor’s note: trademark pending), written specifically for transitioning into college.
1) Find a church
If you haven’t done so yet, do it right now.
Look up the school you’re going to (or the ones that you might go to if you haven’t committed yet), the city you’ll live it, etc., and find a church there. Doing that is way more important than anything I have to say in the coming paragraphs, so just stop reading this and go do that, it’s a better use of your time.
Then figure out how you’ll get there. Is the church close enough to walk to? You may want to give that a go. Will you have a car? If not, get in touch with your campus’ OCF advisor, president (talk to your regional leader if you can’t figure out who that is), or the parish priest of the church to see if someone could get you to church.
I am blessed with a parish here filled with people who were constantly offering to drive me to church, which was only a mile from my school. I got rides to every service I wanted to go to for three years until I finally got a car here.
I stress to you: do this now. Before you get to school. Once you get there you will be so overwhelmed with everything else going on that church can slip away way too easily. Do your research beforehand so that you can get in the habit of going to church early.
2) Be prepared, yet adaptable
This one is more my personal philosophy that may not work for you, but I’m thinking it might. You need just the right level of mental and physical preparation transitioning to college or elsewhere. Saying, “I’ll figure it out when I get there,” is probably not the best preparation method, yet if your planning is too detailed, you will be completely thrown off the first time something contradicts your plans.
You will want some ideas of how you will approach your classes, your social life, your church life, etc., but don’t write anything in stone in your head. There are so many factors that you can’t control, so write all of your plans in pencil with a great big eraser waiting to rewrite things as necessary.
(Side note: I strongly recommend taking this same approach with your major. Go into college knowing what you like and what you might want to do if you can, but keep an open mind and be willing to make adjustments to your plan.)
3) Do stuff
College is amazing. You get to be in an environment where your job in life is just to learn as much as you can, taking it all in from the experts, so that you can go out into the world and be the best you can be at whatever you do. So go take advantage of it. For example, my school brings in a guest speaker every week and gives pizza to anyone who goes and listens to the talk. I go as often as I can regardless of the topic because that’s what college is about.
Outside of academics, keep doing what you love. In my case, I had the opportunity to keep playing trombone after I got into college, so I joined the band and the orchestra. But even more importantly, try new stuff. One of the best decisions I made in college was joining the ultimate frisbee team. I knew nothing about the sport besides the rules when I went to my first practice, and I instantly fell in love with it.
(Editor’s note: We will neither confirm nor deny if this is Paul.
College is about learning as much as you can and developing as a person, but that can happen outside of the classroom, lab, or lecture hall. My opinion is that if you live at school and the only commitments you have are class-related, you’re not doing college right.
4) Every once in awhile, remember you enjoy what you do.
Most college students would tell you college is overwhelming, and in my experience, they’re right. If you’ve been adding up all the things that I tell you I do, you may conclude that I’m a busy person, and sometimes I get stressed and collapse into a state of wanting to ignore my responsibilities.
But I found a trick to avoid reaching that state: it’s to remember that I actually do enjoy what I’m doing. My classes this semester are in psychology (my major), Spanish (my minor), and philosophy (I’m a nerd, so that’s my ‘fun class’).
(Editor’s note: this is also Paul.)
I chose to study that stuff because I enjoy it. I do music stuff and ultimate frisbee stuff because I enjoy those things, and the truth is that when I’m home too long for a break, I’m begging in my head for the opportunity to do all of them again. So basically what I’m saying is, have fun every step of the way.
5) Talk to adults
I didn’t do this intentionally, but a few times it came up. I’m guessing that many of the adults in your life have been to college: ask them about it. What did they enjoy? What weren’t they prepared for? What do they regret? What advice do they have? You’re allowed to learn from other people’s experiences, not just your own.
As with all my lists, these are the things that help me that I think would help you. What would you add? What would your friends in college/older siblings/parents add? I pray that your transition goes well, and that those of us currently in college can still take what we can from these lessons and apply it.
Paul Murray is a senior psychology major and Spanish minor at Franklin & Marshall College, and he attends Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Lancaster, PA. His home parish is St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in New Kensington, PA, and he has spent the past three summers serving as a counselor at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh Summer Camp and the Antiochian Village. In his free time, Paul ties prayer ropes and writes descriptions of himself in the third person for blog articles.
It would be wrong of me to write this post pretending like the spiritual transition from high school to college is mostly seamless with a few slip-ups on the way. In fact, I really think I would be flat out lying to you and that is a sin, so I must keep to the rule of honesty.
Currently, I am in my second year in school. My first year was spent attending almost every OCF meeting and every Sunday Liturgy possible. I was responsible. I found rides to church, ways to attend Thursday Bible study. I did everything I was “supposed” to do to set myself up for success in my spiritual realm. However, here I am, halfway through my second year, and my spiritual life has waned.
I have rehearsals on Tuesday nights so I miss our OCF meetings and on Sundays when I should be going to church in the mornings. I have to be honest with you, while I know this lifestyle is not necessarily conducive to growing a faith, I do not regret the choices I have made when planning my weekly schedule as I know they contribute to my education. However, while I never intended to impede my spiritual growth, I have made a choice that does, and must face the effects of that choice.
During Christmas Break, my freshman year of college, I took confession with my parish priest, and he gave me this advice when I told him I felt like I had not been doing enough for my faith while in school. His advice: Claire, you are in college. You are there to learn and to receive a degree. While God should always stay at the center of your life, do not punish yourself if you cannot always attend liturgy or OCF. That is not why you are in school.
via barnzy on flickr
It is from this advice I offer you my own: When you come to college, you have the opportunity to essentially design your own life. This is a massive responsibility for so young and inexperienced a person. You will make choices that you will not know whether to consider morally right or wrong. You will go through periods of time where nothing seems quite right with any aspect of your life.
If you cannot get yourself to OCF, or liturgy, or any other type of service being offered at your school all I ask is that you take a moment, when you can, to appreciate what you see around you.
Look around at creation, appreciate the specific things in life that give you joy. For me, it is when I walk towards my first class in the mornings in the sprinkling rain, umbrella-less, looking at the blooming flowers in the trees. That is all part of creation and we have the blessed opportunity to experience it.
We live in a turbulent world that asks quite a bit of its young people. Take advantage of this education God has given you and use it to increase the goodness and kindness in the world. And like the tenth leper, come back and tell Him thank you when you have received your gift.
Claire is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying Theater and Performance Studies and English. She currently attends Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Her favorite Saint is Saint Pelagia the actress and when not in church or the theater, she likes to spend her time exploring San Francisco, reading plays, and eating sushi.