Balancing Act

Balancing Act

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.

Times are Changing

Times are Changing

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!

From the Beyond: Life Post-OCF

From the Beyond: Life Post-OCF

Hello from the beyond! The scary unknown that is post grad, the uncharted territory of working adulthood.

An update: Upon graduating from Pitt and passing on the OCF baton, I embarked on a new great adventure. I am spending the next two years as a teaching fellow with the Alliance for Catholic Education (which you should all check out: ace.nd.edu) and am spending the next two years teaching middle school language arts in Mobile, AL while pursuing my Masters of Education from Notre Dame.

Though I’m still a novice at this working thing, I’d like to reflect and share with you some humble thoughts.

1. You’re probably going to spiritually struggle more.

College is hard, no doubt. I don’t need to tell you that. Being on your own and navigating your relationship with God, establishing a personal faith life, etc. all the things OCF warns you about and supports you through are valid struggles. But that’s the thing — OCF is there for you. You have a support team, a lifeboat of other Orthodox college students captained by a spiritual or lay advisor who help you navigate the turbulent waters of college.

When you leave OCF, you leave the lifeboat. You’re now aboard your own little dinghy, all alone, still not really sure how to sail the waters. If you’re like me, you’ve moved WAY far from home or anyone you know. This is another huge change in your life, but without the structure, comfort, and help of OCF.

2. That being said, OCF will still help.

OCF has gifted you with an arsenal of friends, mentors, and resources. Use them! Reach out to your friends when you struggle, those who have gone before you and have this whole working thing under their belt, those who are also experiencing it for the first time, and those still in the safety of senior year. Reach out to your chapter spiritual advisor, a speaker you particularly enjoyed. Admit you are struggling and embrace it! The soil is fertile for growth, all you need to do is nurture it. You’re going to be changing and growing in so many ways — don’t neglect your spiritual struggles and changes but give them the tools they need to flourish.

3. Love God, and love your neighbor.

Maybe this is more Emma – specific advice, as I spend my days with a hormonal group of 60 middleschoolers. Sometimes, it’s really hard to love them. Like, really hard, especially when they ask you to go to the bathroom for the fifteenth time that day after you already said no the first fourteen times.. No matter what field you go into, you’re probably going to have to work with people you’ll struggle to love. In college, you often have more choice about the groups with which you surround yourself — your roommates, study buddies, club members. In work, not so much. You might not like your boss or your co-workers. But, you have to love them. And don’t just love them because you have to, because it’s a a commandment. Really try. Get to know them. Find Christ within them. In doing so, you will find Christ within yourself. And your work life will be a whole lot easier.

And of course, never forget God. Pray. Love. Give glory and thanks. In a way, we always talk about the things that change in our life — college, working, where we live, who are friends are — but it’s so much simpler than that. The one thing in our life that never changes is Christ and His love for us. So, while you’re in the midst of these crazy changes, remember the constants. And you will be just fine.


Emma is the former chairman of the OCF SLB. After graduating from Pitt, Emma joined the Alliance for Catholic Education as a Teaching Fellow. She currently lives in Mobile, AL where she teaches middle school language arts and is pursing her Masters of Education from Notre Dame.

Sure, It’d Be Nice | Why OCF Matters

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.

From The Desk Of The Chairwoman: Graduating

From The Desk Of The Chairwoman: Graduating

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.