My life has recently been filled with new experiences and environments since starting my first semester of college at the University of Arkansas.
I have been immersed in the “college culture” and forced to become independent fairly quickly. Between going to class, studying and hanging out with friends, I struggle to make time for God. In high school I took advantage of how easy it was for me to find God because of my positive environment and support system of friends and family.
This past semester was a series of trial runs to see what works best for me and finding this place to root my faith in while at college. However, finding this place is difficult for first semester students and comes with many obstacles.
One of these obstacles is college culture, which is something I had heard about before arriving at college, but I didn’t fully understand how an increase in freedom would impact a person’s habits and mindset so drastically. The structure and support system that we all leave behind affects every student differently. Students either take their new freedom and apply it negatively and irresponsibly or positively and maturely. The majority of students fall into the negative college culture, which can include excessive partying, hookup culture or falling behind in classes. All of these cultural norms are pushed onto students and can be drowning.
I knew going into college I didn’t want to drown, but thrive. I came to the conclusion that God is the complete opposite of college culture so the only way to thrive would be to find a place where I could continue my relationship with God.
Since the day I arrived at the University of Arkansas campus, I was searching for a place I could call my faith home. I ultimately found him at the Catholic church on campus, St. Thomas Aquinas. This college student-centered parish has been a great place for me to stay connected to my faith and grow closer to other students. The college ministry provides many opportunities to be involved in the community through Bible studies, RCIA, Knights of Columbus and a weekly program with talks and adoration called K.N.O.C.K. The students are also very involved in the Mass by being lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers of Communion, and altar servers.
The most helpful group at St. Thomas for me has been a women’s group called Setons. This is a great group of women who are powerfully connected through their faith. Every single woman in this group has a different personality and life experiences, but we all come together on Tuesday nights to share our faith and grow in each other’s love.
I love having a place where I can be with trusted friends especially girls who are all around the same age. I didn’t realize how unique this group of women was until I realized that many girls don’t have a place where they can be purely themselves in both their personalities and their faith. During our meetings we cover topics like lives of women saints, book reviews and relationships.
My favorite activity we do at Setons is Prayer Partners because it allows me to pray and get to know another girl in between our meetings. My past prayer partners and I have usually tried to meet up for coffee outside of our meetings and this has helped me to get to know my partner and really form a relationship that surpasses just our weekly meetings.
This past semester I have grown so much in my personal faith life because I have had to truly make it my own. This community has helped me through first semester transitions and overwhelming workloads. I am excited to see what is to come while I am at St. Thomas.
Olivia Parker is a freshman at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock is her home parish.
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