A Letter To All First-Year Students

Written By Natalie Hanna Tan, Singapore

Hey there,

You made it! You’ve survived the plane, bus, or train ride and have arrived at a new season of life. Welcome to university—your home for the next three to four years!

You may be feeling apprehensive and excited at the same time. That’s normal. Take your time to settle in. If you had set some objectives before you came, that’s great. If not, here are five things to mull over as you get into the swing of things.

1. Don’t stay in your comfort zone.

You’ll be tempted to gravitate to what you’re comfortable with. You’ll want to find friends exactly like your close friends back home—those who share your interests, laugh with you, and understand you—before you’re willing to open up. But unless you see new people as individuals God has placed in your path and take the step to open up to them, you’re going to find it difficult to make new friends.

Everyone is new and is meeting each other for the first time. You’ll see new personalities and new habits, and you’ll find yourself growing closer to friends quickly. That’s the beauty of this season—that’s if you’re willing to let them into your life.

Don’t stick with what you’re comfortable with. Even as you maintain old friendships, embrace new friends, and journey this season with them.


2. Start your day well.

Whether you’re a “morning person” or a “night person”, starting your morning well is the first step to a productive day.

Cook a nice breakfast for yourself and make it a point to give yourself some time alone before you begin your busy day. I’ve learned that spending unhurried time reading the Bible and talking with God helps set my mind on the right track for the rest of the day. And let’s face it: you’d probably be too tired to do so at the end of the day anyway.

Guard these morning moments with God zealously. You’d find that committing your day and yourself to God is the key to get you through university life (and the rest of life for that matter).


3. It’s okay to cry.

You’re going to struggle with homesickness, (for those who are studying overseas or living in hostel), loneliness, and disappointments. And you’re going to feel overwhelmed every once in a while over the next few years. That’s perfectly okay; you don’t need to appear like you’ve got it all together. Don’t be afraid to show you’re vulnerable.

It’s okay to cry and admit that you’re struggling; everyone else is probably feeling the same way too. But learn to find joy in the new things this season will bring. Be assured that God is with you (it’s in moments like these that you’ll realize how much you need God), and find comfort in knowing that your community back home is praying alongside you and your new community is here to support you.


4. Learn to say “no”.

It’s easy to get caught up with the hype about being a university “freshie”. Soon, you’d find yourself up to your neck in social activities. These things are great but know that it’s okay to say “no” sometimes too.

On nights that your flat mates are heading out to party, don’t force yourself to say “yes” just because you’re scared to miss out or feel left out. You can always join them on other nights or bond with them over other things, like cooking, for example.

If your close friends are going for a late movie and pizza night—and you still have readings to do—learn to politely decline. You’d regret the next day when you wake up with that horrible cold.

Manage your time well and remember to rest.


5. You’re not going to get it all right at first, but you eventually will.

This first week is not going to be easy. You’re going to question if this is where God wants you to be and you’re going to make mistakes. Learning to live independently—and all that it entails—will not come to you all at once. You’ll need to slowly figure your way around and keep picking yourself up when you fall.

Press on and hold on tight to God in the mess and confusion. It might be a steep learning curve, but God is going to grow you this year. It is in your weakness and helplessness that His power is made strong in you.


You’ll get there.


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