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6 ways to remain faithful to your religion at university

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University can be a crazy time, as you try and get used to your classes, make new friends, and (for many students) adapt to living away from home.

These are issues that all students experience, however, for some students there is also the issue of faith. No matter what religion you are, it impacts how you live your life, the way you see the world and the anxieties you have on entering a new situation. 

A key anxiety among students who are religious is how they continue to faithfully worship and live by certain standards in an environment that is so new, multicultural and which is known for its party lifestyle. 

It can be intimidating to try and make friends with students who share very different values, or who like to socialise by partying or drinking when you do not. Equally, it can be awkward to talk about your religion or know when to bring it up. Of course, it likely won’t be the first topic of discussion, but if religion plays a big role in your life it will need to be mentioned at some point. Otherwise, how will your friends get to truly know you?

In addition, how do you date in a place where so many people will have a different opinion on what dating means, or will have different expectations of a couple's progress? Should you try and find societies and people who share your religion to have that safety and comfort, or try to start university by just seeing who you meet along the way?

All these worries can make university a rather daunting experience, which is why we have come up with a list of ways to keep your religion at university, while still having a great time. 

1. Stick to your values

I know this will sound very cheesy and obvious, but it’s actually incredibly important. You want to make the most of university and have a great time, not pretend to like things you don't and end up graduating with regrets. 

Additionally, the only way you will make real friends and feel like you belong is by being honest. If you aren’t being true to yourself, how is anyone meant to get to know you? It might sound like the safest option to just go with the flow at first, but if you start off by pretending you might find yourself stuck with a group of friends who don't really know you and with whom you have little in common.

2. Join societies 

This is applicable to anyone really, but is especially useful for students who are religious. 

The first few weeks of university, fondly known as ‘freshers week’, is a key time to make friends. Unfortunately, drinking and clubbing are very popular ways students socialise and meet new people during this time, and it can be difficult to meet people if you aren’t interested in engaging in this. 

It is always an option to just go out but not drink (though you might find yourself the only one even close to sober if you do) or just attend pre-drinks, where all the games and bonding occur. However, it might also be wise to make friends in other ways. Take advantage of the freshers fair and all the society’s advertising themselves and see what is out there. Most universities have a wide selection to choose from, including sports teams, media groups, dance societies and religious societies. 

These societies are a great way to meet people and ensure you have regular contact with others who share your interests. They have a variety of ways for you to bond and they play an integral part in creating a community spirit at university. Even if you’re not sure, it is worth signing up and going to the first meeting, as you can always quit if it ends up not being your cup of tea. 

3. Be brave in class

Similarly, talking to people in your classes is a great way to socialise and make friends who share interests. They will be people you can study with and endure essays or exams with, who you can turn to for help and sit with in lessons. Most importantly, they will have similar experiences to you at university, and will understand your triumphs or struggles. 

4. Think carefully when choosing accommodation

For some, the new people and variety of religions and cultural norms is part of the reason to go to university. However, it can also make it difficult to settle in and meet like-minded people. This is where smaller, faith-based halls come into the picture.

If you are looking for smaller student accommodation, where you can embrace a stronger sense of community and meet more like-minded people, then faith-based halls are great! You are able to make friends more easily, get to know everyone in your halls better, and live with people who share your values. Also, many faith-based halls will have worship built into the day, such as prayer before meals or at certain times, so that you can practice faithfully without any problems. 

It cuts out the need for awkward conversations, ensures you live in an environment where you feel safe and accepted and helps you to get your footing and find a place you can belong. Equally important, these faith-based halls ensure you are able to socialise with people in the way that you want, rather than being dependent on the few non-alcoholic activities your university might provide.

This makes university less intimidating and can make the transition of moving from home to a new place smoother and more enjoyable, both for native and international students.

If you're studying in the capital and are Christian, we recommend Lee Abbey London - a comfortable, faith-based accommodation in Kensington. Find out more here

5. Research your area

Once you have decided where you will live it is important to research the area and find out if there are local places of worship. 

For many religions, active worship such as prayer and attending services are an important aspect of being religious and maintaining a strong connection with your faith. As such, it is important to see if your halls or the surrounding area offer places where you can worship, as well as researching their quality. 

Ultimately, the more connected and engaged you are with your religion, and the sooner you make it a part of your university schedule, the better you will be able to remain faithful to it. So look for local meetings, see if the local places of worship do events which you can attend and attempt to actively engage and bond with the community.

6. Engage in activities suitable for your faith

Whether this is volunteering, fundraising, teaching or talking to people about your religion, it is important to engage in activities which make you feel good and which benefit the community. The more you attempt to live in line with your religion the closer and better connected to it you will feel.

You might look for such opportunities in your places of worship, or in your halls or at university. It all depends on you. As long as you are open to opportunities and join groups where such activities are advertised, it should be easy to find one that is perfect for you.

Ready to think about next year's accommodation? Get more information on Lee Abbey London here. 

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