A friend I met in university (who is now working overseas) shared that living the immigrant life means you’re forever questioning who you are and where you belong.
While spending four years in the UK as a university student might not necessarily be “living the immigrant life”, I could certainly relate to the struggles she mentioned. While studying overseas was very much my own choice, this did not mean that I was free from the worries and insecurities that came with leaving the comforts of Singapore and having to adjust to life overseas.
As with starting any new chapter in life – studying at a new school, working in a new place, living in a different city – the first few weeks were mostly spent making introductions to different people. Given my character, I naturally enjoy meeting new people and making new friends.
However, I felt like I was still searching for something. It was only after attending a Christian Fellowship (CF) with a Singaporean senior that I knew what I was looking for. So what made this group of people different from the other student communities I found in my university?
I believe the difference was the fact that we all shared a love for God and His Word, as well as a desire to serve and submit to Him.
In other words, this group of people – most of whom were also fellow international students – not only empathised with my emotional and mental needs, but understood my spiritual needs as well. While I have close university friends from various races, cultures, religions and backgrounds, studying abroad made me understand the importance of Christian friends in university.
In my prayers for finding a Christian community, God impressed upon my heart that I should not just find one – but root myself in one. I soon came to understand that this process of rooting myself was something that did not happen overnight but required much initiative on my part.
… these friends reminded and encouraged me that what I needed most was actually a who – God Himself.
Rooting myself in my Christian fellowship meant regular attendance and availing myself to serve.
In the midst of assignment deadlines and exams, it was tempting to just give up everything and go and study, but seeing my friends serving together and encouraging each other even while handling their own workloads inspired and pushed me on to do the same.
Their fellowship reminded again and again that God is my anchor. The familiar comforts of home that being overseas could not afford – I learned to find in Him. And when it was difficult to do so, these friends reminded and encouraged me that what I needed most was actually a who – God Himself.
Being plugged into a CF also gave me friends whom I could be kept accountable to. Living in a country very far away from home, I had the freedom to represent myself and live my life any way I wanted to. I could have made choices that everyone back home would not know of.
My friends pointed me heavenward time and time again.
So while it was important to be accountable to people about my life in the UK, it was more important that I found people to keep me accountable for my walk with God.
- Am I glorifying Him with the opportunities I have been given to study and live in UK?
- Would He be pleased with how I have spent my four years here?
Learning to constantly ask myself questions like these was a result of walking with like-minded friends who kept pushing me on to grow in my intimacy with the Father. Their physical presence in my life overseas also made it harder to hide or run away from being real. So, over time, it became easier to be open and vulnerable with them.
If you ask me, the main reason why Christian friends are important in our lives is because they are a means through which God draws us closer to Himself. Through the challenges of university life overseas, the godly friendships I have forged have been clear reflections of His generous love, His mercy and His far-reaching grace.
While plugging oneself into a Christian fellowship or community can be intimidating, do not let the fear of putting yourself out there prevent you from establishing godly friendships. Indeed, “Christian friendship is a treasure because it helps us cling to our greatest Treasure.”