If I could only give you one piece of advice for college, this is it: dive deep and hard into the community around you.
Coming in as a freshman is all sorts of things - terrifying, exciting, new, overwhelming, freeing. There's so much going on and you want to experience it all. Even an 8:00 AM class has some exhilaration to it (at least for the first week before coffee becomes an absolute necessity). There are hall events, the beach trip, Waffle House runs, pranks on your RA, small group conversations. Ways to get involved with the community are placed right in front of you.
Freshmen, get involved in these things! Stay out too late sometimes at Waffle House (not past curfew though), go on the beach trip, hang out in your RA's room, and eat chips and salsa past your bed time. These things, especially early on, set you up to really dive into community.
Come the second year, the infamous "Sophomore Slump" occurs and things start to lose their sparkle. A late night Waffle House run means barely staying awake in your 9:00 AM class the next day, beach trip this year seems a little more expensive, and staying in your own room sounds better than walking down the hall to hang out with your RA. This is where I'm encouraging you to dive deep and hard into community.
Living in community is not always about exciting late nights and amazing conversation. If you want college to be some of your best years, even in the middle of the harshness of life, you have to dive deep and hard into the lives of the people around you. I don't mean that you just sit and talk to someone over coffee. I mean you get into the messy stuff of life with them; the things they don't want to deal with. You walk through it with them. Sometimes this means late nights just holding your friend as she cries over her family problems that won't seem to go away. Sometimes it means confronting the guy on your hall over the way he isn't loving others well. Sometimes, diving into community looks like giving up a night for yourself to pour Christ into an underclassman who is thirsty for meaning in their life.
As a senior, I have been reflecting on my time here at CIU. I've learned a lot about the Bible, about business, about Christ and the Gospel. While I'm going to graduate with a degree in Global Business and Bible, what I feel like I'm graduating with is a degree in the importance of people. A lot of life happens in these four years. The good, the bad, and the ugly all make an appearance at some point. I can tell you from personal experience that walking through each of those things is a lot more endurable and rewarding when it happens with people walking alongside you. I've been blessed with friends who encouraged me in my darkest times and then laughed with me through the best seasons of life. In the same way, I've had the privilege of walking with people through some of their darkest moments and rejoicing with them on the other side.
I'll warn you: community is not easy. It’s hard and tiring and often asks you to step out of your comfort zone. But the reward? The reward is incredible. I’m graduating from college with friends who will last a lifetime. Friends who I know will continue to challenge, encourage, support, and pray for me. My time here has been four years of cultivating and growing these friendships. It’s worth the hard work because the community I've experienced here has given me just a small taste of what Heaven may one day be like.
Dive deep and hard. The reward is infinite.