We’ve all heard it before; your time at university is some of the best days of your life. Yesterday I graduated and upon reflection on the past five years, I can confidently say it has been. But University was more than the passport stamps I collected (not that they even give you those anymore), the High Distinctions Distinctions on my essays and the wealth of theories learnt some of which I quickly dismissed in order to take on whoever’s the next semester’s subjects held. University is more than the experiences you have, memories acquired and friends made.
It took me five years after enrolling in four universities to complete three majors in two countries, but here’s what studying my Bachelor of Arts (Media & Communications, Sociology and Marketing) taught me:
Jesus Christ is indeed Lord
I made the decision to follow Christ several years prior to commencing university, but it wasn’t until then that my views were challenged. In tutorials, Christians were belittled and mocked. During walk-up evangelism, Jesus was called anything from a lunatic to mythical, prophetic or just a great historic figure. At Sydney University Evangelical Union Public Meetings, conferences, bible studies and seminars, I was confronted by my simplistic and lackadaisical faith. Each week brothers and sisters poured out teaching and wisdom, taking time to invest in me, listening and provoking me to think.
It’s not about me
I had two undisclosed objectives for my time at university. One, land a job that would be my first step to becoming an uber-successful businesswoman and two, find a husband. I failed at both. Instead, I studied the inequalities present in Australia, I listened first-hand to individuals who shared their struggles and sadness with me and I came to accept promoting insurance nor competing for awesome stories of which a byline would attribute Melanie Pennington would fulfill me. My life is not for me to make my name great, but to faithfully profess Jesus Christ is Lord. My life isn’t to make a luxury for myself, but to self-sacrificially serve others. While looking beyond the things that matter to me remains difficult and listening involves a conscious decision to do so upon entering a conversation, I endeavour to put squash the pride that so easily overcomes me.
It happened more times than I care to remember. Usually in the early hours of the morning when you realize you can get hungry at 3am and the dark silence is haunting knowing everyone else is asleep. You wonder how you’ll ever make the word limit. You rethink your entire thesis statement. You question the worth of your entire degree. Another hour goes by and you still have thousands of words to go. How did I get here again? You tell yourself you won’t procrastinate again. The stress. The anguish. The self-pity. You have two choices in that moment: give up and go to sleep or suck it up and press on. And so I would press on. It became harder as the semesters passed. The time constraints increased as I took on more work and other commitments. The self-applied pressure to do better than a credit overwhelmed me. My motivation was tried again and again.
And so, six months after submitting my final assignment, attired in a huge black robe, silly hat, furry hood I awkwardly curtsied, saluted twice, made small talk on stage with a figure head of which I had and never will meet again, I walked down the steps of the Great Hall rostrum and turned my tassel.
University has been some of the best days of my life, and with all those that remain I hope to remember all that I have learnt, seeking to serve Jesus Christ with a determination to put Him first and not myself – until He returns or takes me home.