We sat down with Joe, who studied Physics at Durham University and is a rugby player, and Rhi, who studied Sport and Exercise Science at Cardiff Met and is a long distance runner to chat about their experiences of starting university.
If you're heading to university this Autumn, let us know and we can connect you with your group.
I was excited. I didn't think I was really that nervous for some reason. I just thought class opportunity to get into more sport. I wasn't 100% sure that I'd do rugby, when I went to uni, I thought I might try a few others out, but ended up playing rugby and was really excited to be doing high level sport or higher level sport and get to know a load more people.
I was just excited to be in an environment where playing sport is kind of the norm. For me, that was such a change from sixth form, to be in an environment where everyone was doing sport every single day and all the facilities were on campus. I was just really excited. I was also nervous for what that would look like, but excited to get some good quality facilities and good quality coaching and for the academic staff to also be very much understanding of that and understanding the importance of sport and not having to worry about that necessarily being a pressure on my studies.
It was a bit of a whirlwind. The first six weeks of just figuring out what doing sport was like at such quite a high level, as well as then doing all your studying. It wasn't stressful neccesarily but it was a whole new way of living.
Also what was really encouraging is that you're in halls and most of my flatmates were all doing sport as well. So it wasn't like I was the only person doing sport in my flat - all of us were doing sport, to different levels of different sports, but there is this common consensus, that it's the norm here to be playing. And that's such an amazing environment to be in where sport is just sort of everywhere and quite consuming. But what was amazing is that you could really show people that you live slightly differently as a Christian and those first six weeks just by going to church on a Sunday was just a different thing that people hadn't maybe seen before.
For me they were a little bit of a roller coaster. I actually found my first few weeks quite hard. I hadn't been to preseason rugby training. I went along to trials, got into into the teams for rugby and didn't really know what I was doing or where I was. And I think I just generally felt like that about most things.
I felt a bit lost, but I think it was a real comfort knowing that God was 100% with me. There were also really great things. There are a few Christians who I knew of who I could keep in touch with. And also some older Christians in the rugby club, which I really benefited from, chatting to them and getting to know how they'd navigated things was helpful.
It was tough though as it's kind of like a culture shock. People talk about culture shock when you go overseas or different places, but actually there's this whole big culture of weird stuff that goes on in a rugby club that just takes time to get used to. So I found it hard, especially as I felt I didn't really know anyone there and I didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing.
So my initial response was to actually stop going to socials most of the time. And by the time I got to my second year, I really regretted that I didn't know guys in my year nearly as well as some of the other guys did. But that was what my response was at the time.
I think people necessarily hadn't really seem maybe someone who's done sport go to church before, it was definitely not the norm. At Cardiff Met, we're a small university, so I didn't actually know any Christians either for a long time in my first year and so I did feel quite like I was on my own, but I knew that I wasn't alone, God was with me. It was really cool thought to say, "I'm going to church and I'm not running and I'm not training on Sundays." I made that decision to do that.
When I started I was doing triathlon training, and it was quite intense, so it was full on. Our Christian Union was quite a small, and separated over two campuses and often they'd meet at the campus I wasn't at, so actually I quickly made the decision to join the Christians in Sport group rather than CU because I couldn't do CU that often.
It was hard because at the beginning because there are so many opportunities and you feel like you should be going to all these Christian events to get really stuck in and find your community, but I also wanna do sport. And so I made it a priority to do Christians in Sport and get stuck into church and doing that because I knew those were the things I could commit to alongside my academic studies. I tried to not get too overwhelmed with all the opportunities. Initially as a fresher, you need to remember you can't do everything, especially if you're doing a lot of sport, a lot of training, you will just burn out. So I just committed to doing Christians in Sport because I could do it on a Wednesday morning and I could go do church.
It can feel like there is too much choice sometimes and so it's worth thinking about what you want in a church before going to uni.
I think some of the key things to ask are:
It might actually be that there are multiple churches that do all those things. And I think in that case, just pick one and kind of go all out for it, kind of similar to like with your sport, really, really be committed to, like with sport, you'd be committed to training you'd be committed to match days, with church, be committed to getting there on a Sunday, getting there to midweek groups, if you can. And also meeting up one-to-one with people. I think that's really, really helpful to feel like you're part of something when it comes to a church.
It was brilliant. I think the Christians in Sport group, over my four years in Durham had one of the biggest effects on my Christian life. Being able to meet other people who are mad about sport and really on fire for Jesus was class.
Two things in particular were helpful. Firstly, to know that I could really do my sport in a way that pleased God was something that I learned for the first time, aged 18. And also that there's just a massive amount of people who don't know Jesus and won't hear about him. Unless something changes, unless there are Christians in their sports clubs who are gonna stick their neck out on the line. And I think it was those two realizations have changed the way that I've thought about my sport ever since.
I think for me, because I wasn't part of Christian Union in the first year, that was my first sort of community where I had Christians that loved Jesus so much, but also loved sport.
I knew, waking up at 7:00 AM, walking down, that was the highlight of my week to meet with those guys, to have breakfast, to just spend time in God's word. And then how can I apply that within my sport? And it was wonderful for the first time to realise that I can glorify God in how I train, in how I compete, and I can show people Jesus in this. I hadn't thought of that before.
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