Monday, September 12, 2016
Hey there, friends and family! My name is Katie, and when August rolled around this year I returned to start my sophomore year of Intercultural Studies at JBU. It’s been a journey to get here, but it has been so worth it.
When I was a freshman, JBU had decided to sort out orientation groups by Gateway class. This was so great as a freshman because I knew that the people I met during the first week of college would also be people I would see again. My sweet roommate and I had signed up for the same Gateway class, so we were put together in the same O-group. My best friend since elementary school was put in the other group of our Gateway class, and honestly, I was PUMPED. It was a good mix of people I knew before that first day and friends I had yet to make. Our O-leaders were so enthusiastic and welcoming- one of them even had us over to his townhouse later that semester for a ‘homecooked’ meal and an O-group reunion. All the chapel services we sat through that week were so good for my soul, and nothing sounds better than hundreds of voices echoing the worship songs in the Cathedral. Basically, orientation week felt like a week of church camp, in the best kind of way.
My O-Group was good, but it wasn’t exactly the picture-perfect experience. I’m here to tell you that even so, it turned out okay in the end. It was exactly what I needed. I was one of the few freshman in our group who had friends from home with them at JBU that orientation week. It was so, so good to have them there, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But the other freshmen, who really only knew the people in our group, bonded in a way I couldn’t quite experience. My roommate met her now-best-friend in our O-group, and sometimes it was hard to not feel excluded or jealous because my roommate decided to do things with her new friend and without me. Somewhere that week, I missed a spontaneous group hangout to be with friends from home, and I fell out of the loop. I missed all the inside jokes my O-group made and felt like I had just been left on the outside looking in. It stung, and it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It just happened, and it happened without me.
But here I am, a year later, standing on the other side. Most of my O-group has become a tightly-knit friend group, and I’m not a part of it. Instead, I’ve made other friends from classes, from mutual friends, and circumstances that only our God could have orchestrated. I still have fond memories of orientation week and all the freshmen activities. God placed those people in my life specifically for that week, and I am so grateful for them!
The reality is that, while most O-groups have a great week, and many continue to do college things together after orientation week, there will be O-groups like mine, where some become best friends and some remain just acquaintances. In the moment, it can be so difficult to feel like maybe you don’t belong. If you’ve had your freshman call home with a similar story, I can reassure you that God knows exactly what He’s up to.
While I’m sure others had a much better orientation week than I did, my first semester of classes was even more wonderful than I could imagine. My Bible classes were so challenging and thought provoking. The discussions that happened in my Gateway class were so deliberate and gracious. I remember walking out of my Cultural Anthropology class teary-eyed with excitement- this is exactly what I want to do with my life. It would take a lot more effort to do well in these classes than in high school, but the work I was doing was work that felt meaningful and rewarding. That first semester, I experienced professors praying over us before class started, invitations to dinner at a professor’s house, home-made snacks brought to class in the early mornings or long afternoons, and incredible conversations about what we were studying and how Jesus played a part in that. Those classes were even better than I could have asked for or imagine.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says it best: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Even if my circumstances were not what I planned, God used them to make something even greater. He is so, so good.