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By Erika Boudreau

Part 1 of 2

Congratulations! You did it. You finished high school and are moving onto the next level of your education. Whether you are staying in your city or moving away, living at home, on campus, or off campus this year is going to be a change. A BIG change, and at times a very scary change. But none of that means this change has to be bad. Scary? Yes. Overwhelming at times? Yes. Crazy? Weird? Not normal? You mean I am constantly going to be forced out of my comfort zone? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. You mean at times it’s going to feel like everything is falling apart and I am going to have no idea what to do? I guarantee it. But I also guarantee that along with finding yourself this year you will find love…and forgiveness…and grace…and God, because He has never left your side and will guide you through all that you face. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

Having just finished my first year of post-secondary in April of this year, almost everything you will face is still very fresh in my mind, and having been there (and messed up quite badly), I know the feelings of loneliness and the feelings of anxiety that may await you. But, I also know the feelings of joy and love and comfort that you will find, the feelings that come with the presence of God that remind you that you can do all things, for it is the Lord your God who gives you strength. I do not by any means claim to have all the answers, but I do know that those answers are found in God, so don’t be afraid to call on Him, and He will show you the way.

I choose to attend a small (only around 2,200 students) liberal arts university on the east coast of Canada, 1,765 kilometers from home. Although my older sister attended the same university, this did little to ease any feeling of nervousness and fear at the thought of my parents leaving and being on my own, not knowing a single person my own age on the whole campus. This is where the university's idea of “Orientation Week” comes in, giving incoming first year students the chance to meet each other, and bond together in a series of activities that may have you questioning the sanity of those who have organized your first week. Although some of the "frosh week" activities I took part in would not have been my first choice, they have made really good memories and rather amusing stories. These activities allowed me to meet other first years in my residence, some of whom have become friends I know I will have for the rest of my life.

You are going to be scared as you leave your room for the first day of frosh week activities and you are certainly not alone in the way you are feeling! Every single first year will be feeling the exact same way, and those that say they are not scared are lying, and those that don’t look scared are just really good at hiding it. I was really scared my first week, but I was also really determined not to let it show, I was brave and friendly and I took part in as much as I could, but I was also scared that I would do something wrong and everyone would remember. Fear will be there, there is no way around it and it is natural to feel that way, after all you are stepping into a completely new situation and we always fear what we do not know. And that’s just it, we fear because we do not know, and often we forget that God does know. He knows exactly how you are feeling and every fear you have, even the ones you won’t admit to yourself, and He knows what will happen during every minute of every hour of every day, and He knows everything is going to be okay. You are never alone you have no reason to fear what is coming because God is with you, and He will show Himself in the very best and most wonderful of ways. This happened to me on the Saturday night after my first week of classes.

After a long night, I was walking back to my room after walking one of my new friends across campus. I was not in the best spirits about this since it was after midnight and I’d gotten up before seven that morning. When I returned to my room tired and ready to sleep, I realized I’d received a text from one of my high school youth leaders just saying they were thinking of me. I was not expecting that text and I was overjoyed to have received it, and as I started to write back, my phone began to ring. The number that appeared on my screen came up as blocked but I answered anyway. I still can’t tell you why because normally I wouldn’t have, but that night I did, and I am so glad I did. On the other end of the phone was my youth leader, calling me as he, my youth director and the rest of my former youth group walked back to their campsite from the beach. It was 12:18am and I was seated on my bed, feeling the most love and comfort I had felt all week. That call served as a reminder to me how loved I was and still am. Loved by my youth leaders, and loved by God, that I had no reason to fear for I knew He was watching over me and sending me reminders that He was and is forever by my side.