For students who’ve never been, what is College Conference? What can be expected?
Anna: College Conference is an event that happens every year over Christmas break for young adults between the ages of 18-25. Every year, students from all different jurisdictions, come together to celebrate their love for the faith and aid each other to grow on their spiritual journeys. You can expect a lot of hugs, love, and warmth from everyone!
Nora: Various aspects include prayer in the mornings and evenings, incredibly hilarious and fun social events, loving fellowship with other Orthodox Christian college students, a keynote speaker who covers the theme of the given year, and different workshop speakers who address various sub-topics under the main theme. People can undoubtedly expect to witness the presence of the Holy Spirit and to be welcomed with love, as well as to be uplifted in all different manners, to be enlightened tremendously in a short amount of time, and to make friends/build on already existing relationships in a way that may have been unexpected!
Q: Our theme for this year is Modern Martyrs: Witnesses to the Word. What does the theme mean to you? Why is it important?
Nora: The theme is what I am most looking forward to this year. This means the world, quite literally, to me, because as is said by (I believe) St. John Chrysostom, “One soul is worth more than the entire world.” This theme was, no doubt, inspired and decided by the Grace of the Holy Spirit because it could not be more accurate and applicable to us as Orthodox Christians in college for what is happening today in a societal and global level. In Syria and other parts of the world, people are being slaughtered for their faith, and multitudes each day are gaining their crowns of martyrdom; whereas here, in America, we become martyrs in the sense that we must face and deny secular social pressures, temptation from all angles, maintaining pureness of heart amidst evil from social media and other forms of communication – all of which is worsening day by day now, it seems. This topic will give us further tools in order to protect ourselves and fight against the traps of the demons that cause us to become martyrs every day.
Q: Why would you encourage students to attend?
Anna: A college lifestyle usually revolves around burying our heads in our work, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and constantly being on the run. College Conference is a chance for students to take a break from their hectic schedules and learn about the faith. A chance for students to grow in their faith and return or start to improve their praying habits. A chance to learn from other Orthodox students who are struggling with similar obstacles. College Conference gives us a chance to re-center our lives on Christ and meet other students who want to help us succeed!
Q: What have been some of your favorite memories from College Conference?
Anna: Every year, my favorite part is the late night chanting in the SS. Peter and Paul Chapel. Each night, students come together and join each other in prayer and song. There is something about it that I truly can’t explain. My first College Conference, I stayed in the chapel the final night until 3am listening and signing along with the hymns I knew. Name another time that you can find a large group of college students gathered together singing and praying to God. You can’t! Come to College Conference and experience my favorite memory for yourself!
Nora: At CC last year, the girls and guys split up and did their own “group chats.” Us girls as an entire group talked, opened up to one another, expressed and loved each other fully, and it was an uplifting, amazing, and life-changing experience. However, the general stereotype for women versus men is that women speak more. Right? Wrong. The most heart-warming thing was that, not only did us ladies finish our talk before the men BUT their talk went on for over an hour longer. This bond is so powerful that “man chat” has continued on into even today – these guys are still amazingly frequently in contact. The most unforgettable memory for me at College Conference 2014, we concluded the last evening with a talent show. When the dance off started to seem to die down, one boy began playing an Arabic beat, so another girl and I started dancing to the Arabic music. Then, more people started coming up and we started a dabke (Arabic line dance). Subsequently, most everyone was up in spontaneous dancing together – the joy was unfathomable! Greeks, Indians, all of the Middle East, Caucasians, Russians, Romanians, Latin Americans, Egyptians…. no differences between any of us existed. We were and are one Orthodoxy, one mankind. Words could not describe this moment, and it is an evening that I will never, ever forget.