As I approach my last semester at Hope College, I have spent more and more time thinking about my experiences at Hope, what I’ve learned in my classes, and what I’ve learned about life. The other day I was at chapel and the speaker said, “Guys, I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but college is really hard. It’s really hard – but it’s supposed to be.” I’ve been sitting on his words for a week, and I don’t think his words could ring more true. Moving away from home, making friends, living with roommates, taking difficult classes, adjusting to a college schedule, and all the other things that make college a unique season of life are all so important, but they are also hard. And they’re supposed to be. I could talk about the many ways Hope has transformed me– through its top-level academics, the amazing friendships it has provided me, faculty and staff that went above and beyond to grow me as an individual, and a campus ministry team that loves students wholeheartedly–but if I really think about it, nothing has transformed me at Hope more than the hard.
As a freshman, I came to Hope on a hail mary pass. All summer long I had prayed about whether Hope was the right place for me. Terrified to leave my family and the incredible community I had at home, I dreaded all the unknown. It was the first time I truly had to trust God with my future. When I moved into Dykstra with 200 other Hope College freshmen, God met me with two incredible roommates that helped me transition into college so much smoother than I ever anticipated. I was thriving at school, and yet, Freshman year didn’t go without its hard nights of feeling lonely, misunderstood, and homesick. I learned that even in the midst of all highs and all the lows (which often happened within the same day), God was with me.
My Sophomore year at Hope was met with a whole new wave of hard. Although we arrived back on campus, COVID-19 restrictions had drastically altered the way classes were taught and the way students interacted with one another. Online and hybrid classes challenged my ability to learn, I was taking 18-credits and my courses were far more difficult than any classes I had taken prior, and health parameters made me feel incredibly isolated. I began to question everything: “Am I in the right majors?” “Am I at the right school?” “Why does God feel so absent?” College is hard. But, it’s supposed to be. In all the questions, God was molding me into who I am becoming. He was teaching me endurance, that my feelings are important but they aren’t always true, and that trusting that God is good is more important than having all the answers to life’s questions.
Junior and senior year have been some of my favorite years of my life. I am so thankful for my 5 housemates, professors that will my success, and for all the many other people at Hope that make it the amazing community that it is. God has taught me so much about listening to others, even those who hold very different opinions or worldviews. He has also taught me so much about finding joy in my everyday life. I wake up excited to go to class, work on group projects, workout, or simply spend time with friends. I have learned so much at Hope, but more than maybe any other lesson, I have learned to embrace the hard. The hardest moments have stretched me, strengthened me, and equipped me for life beyond Hope College.
College is hard, but God meets us in the hard and plants seeds–seeds of Hope. And that is a truly incredible thing to look back on.