University study encourages you to explore and discover. Parents need to be a part of that process too.
My third year of college has given me a perspective on university study and parents. I am currently living at home and commuting every day to school. That means I am able to see my parents on a regular basis. I’ve seen and lived both worlds, though, because I lived on campus my first year of college.
I know that most college students don’t live at home. That’s why I think it is so important for students to talk with their parents. I have always had a very close relationship with my parents, and it only got better when I went to college. Feeling like I could talk to them about my “silly college problems” was and still is something for which I am very grateful.
In my first year of college, I shared a dorm room with a few girls from my Lutheran high school. The worries of having boys over in our room was never a problem—at first. I mean, I am outspoken; I would just tell my roommates not to do that if I was uncomfortable, right? Well, our suite had two rooms, the one I shared with my friends and the other with two strangers. Our suitemates were different; they were Christians but did not hold the same values that I did.
One of my suitemates had her boyfriend sleep over multiple times in her room while we were out. In my mind, I excused it and thought, This is okay, right? I mean we weren’t in the room. It’s not bothering us. Why should I even bring this up to her? And honestly, I never did. I didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of telling her that what she was doing was sin. I didn’t what her to get upset with me. One day I walked in with one of my roommates. We quickly walked into our room, pretending not to notice our suitemate and her boyfriend making out. My suitemate whispered to me later that if I had come in a few minutes later they would have been having sex.
It was an awkward situation. I’m glad I had talked about these issues with my parents before I went off to a college. I wish more parents would have such a conversation. I know those talks are awkward, but it’s truly important to be prepared. I’m grateful for the conversation as uncomfortable as it was for me and my parents. I heard from them that we are not like the world. I didn’t want to be.
After living with roommates for two years, I moved back home. It was mostly for financial reasons, but it’s nice to be with my parents and siblings. I like surrounding myself with people who care about me.
In my freshman year, I started looking into the campus ministry. I went a few times and decided that it just wasn’t for me. I had gone to a Lutheran high school. I went to church every Sunday. I wondered why this was something that was going to be important to me. My parents asked me if I was going; I lied and said yes. I would stay at the dorms on a weekend or two and would not go to church. When they asked, I would tell them that I had. I thought, What is missing one church service going to do? I think many college students think this way when they first get to college. As new students we can believe that we don’t need that dose of God’s Word because we’ve been exposed to it for most of our lives.
But eventually, I wondered, If it really isn’t that big of a deal not to go to the campus ministry and to miss church, then why am I lying about it? So I started going home every weekend and attending church, and I realized the impact it really had on me. My Savior was missing from my life because I was pushing him out.
I started hanging out at the campus ministry house. Now it’s one of my favorite places during my week. At first, I didn’t think it was a place for me, but the people are great and the pastors are too. I didn’t like the Bible studies that much at first, but the pastor’s survey asked what topics we wanted. That helped make Bible study something that I enjoyed. I’d encourage students to get involved and make the ministry what you want it to be.
My parents and I have always had a very open line of communication, but I know that might not be the same for everyone. Some parents don’t know how to bring up topics without sounding like they’re scolding or prying. Some college students want to talk to their parents but are either embarrassed or choose not to bother. My view is, very bluntly, talk to each other. I mean, really talk to each other. Have an open, mushy, heartfelt conversation about what you as a parent want for your child’s life. Just be open and honest, and it may surprise you how much that talk will do. Tell your son or daughter how you feel. They’ll tell you how they feel too.
Parents and students should really have those awkward talks with each other about what to expect in college, especially at a public university. We have an entire Sex Week for the students at my university and never once is the option of not having sex brought up. It’s very important for the freshman students who primarily attend these events to talk about values and beliefs with their parents, to be reminded that it’s okay to have a different view than others who don’t share the same beliefs or principles. That’s something we can easily forget.
College students go into college being told that this is the place to discover who you are. But then you discover that you are being told who you are. One of my suitemates told me that waiting to have sex until marriage was ignorant. I have been told by some of my peers that my religious views are just those of my parents and I should discover who I really am.
Having good communication with your parents creates a healthy mindset for you to be able to be yourself. You have already discovered part of who you are by listening to your parents for 18 years. They have told you that you are a Christian, loved by Jesus and loved by them. From that base you can explore so much more. The world doesn’t like God’s Word and the things that it has to say, but remember what you have learned. Be salt and light on the earth. God calls us to spread his Word and with encouragement from support systems like our parents, it makes doing that not as daunting as it first seems.
Hannah White, a junior at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, is a member at Loving Shepherd, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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Author: Hannah White
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019
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