How I got here is not important. I could ramble on about how my unique mix of rigorous international education and homeschooling made it possible, but I don’t want to bore you, so we’ll jump right in: I came to college at age 16!
My first week here felt like it was straight out of a novel. I was finally at CIU, and was over a year younger than the next youngest in my class. I had to explain myself every night I went out, because even though I had a car I couldn’t drive after 9:00. Thankfully for me my older brother was a senior at the time, which meant it took all of a day for him to inform the entire campus of my age. There was no getting around it. I was in over my head and everyone knew it.My first week I was under siege. Each trip out of my room was met with a slew of “hows” and “whys.” One person even asked if I was some kind of genius. I laughed. The “how” questions were tedious, but the “why” questions were easy. It was no accident I was in school and certainly no accident I was at CIU.
Ten years earlier, my older sister enrolled in CIU, then my brother, and then my other brother. I had heard about CIU for a decade, so in my search for the right school there was no question: I was sold on CIU. Not because my siblings had come and I wanted to be like them, not because of the education, and not even because of the Biblical influence. I was sold on CIU because I knew that at 16 I would be malleable, timid, and in need of discipleship. I was confident that at CIU I would be surrounded by those who were the type of man I wanted to be. From the professors, to the upperclassmen, to the freshmen on my hall, I was surrounded by men and women who loved the Lord and desired to help me grow.
My first year at CIU was more than I expected. I had planned to find men to mentor me through my time at school. Not only were there men who could pour into me, but there were men who desired to pour into me. On my freshman hall were three upperclassmen who worked for Residence Life as part of the Freshman Leadership Team (FLT). They were chosen for their maturity and leadership to help freshmen adjust to life at CIU. The three of them and a handful of other student leaders desired to see me grow spiritually, and wanted to be a part of that process. The fact that I was 16 seemed to drift away. I was accepted for who I was and was shown what it looked like to live out biblical manhood.
By the end of my first semester I had a plethora of spiritual mentors. By my second semester, those mentors had turned into friends. I attended bible study and met regularly with my FLT; but not all our time spent together was so formal. I played frisbee, chopped wood, and watched Netflix with them. They weren’t just filling a leadership role out of obligation; they cared for me as a person. Our community was genuine, not forced, and it seemed the age gap made no difference. I had a place where I belonged. My freshman year was characterized by growth and friendship. By the end of the year I took opportunities to start serving those in my own class. I got involved planning freshman events, leading bible studies, and even speaking to the freshman class on manhood in Christ.
At the end of my freshman year a lot had changed. I was 17, I could drive after nine, and I had great men pouring into me. More importantly, I was part of a great community that believed in me. I had no idea how much more would change in the next year and a half, and I had no idea what God had for me, but I knew that regardless of what came next, I was in the best place I could be.
I was home.
"Why CIU? I was confident that at CIU I would be surrounded by those who were the type of man I wanted to be."