In 2016, Annelise Chan joined more than 20,000 other Kiwi students in the transition from high school to university. The Auckland native continued to live with her family and attend the church where she grew up, but enrolling at the University of Auckland was still a big adjustment.
We talked about the transition three days after her exams finished, watching other students come and go from the Starbucks on Symonds Street. “It was actually pretty scary going into it,” she said. “You know that there’s a jump between high school and university, and that was proved throughout this year.”
A few weeks before she began her first year studying law and commerce, Annelise attended TSCF’s summer camp, Launch, thanks to encouragement from a friend, Tessa King. Tessa is a law student and leader in Veritas, TSCF’s law group at the University of Auckland. “I wouldn’t have gone if it was just me,” Annelise said. She assumed everyone else had already begun studying, and didn’t know anyone besides Tessa who was attending. For those who still have a high school mind-set, the separation between years can be a hurdle to getting to know people. “Uni is quite melded – which I didn’t realize until I got here,” Annelise said.
Launch was held near Wellington in February for students around the country. Annelise met a few others from Auckland during that week, which helped her feel more confident when she showed up on campus.
She said the week was also packed with good conversations with people who were further along in their studies. Their insight was particularly useful as they had the same worldview.
“On the faith front, it was challenging in the way it forced me to think about things in advance,” Annelise said – especially the specific issues a career in law presents. “I’ve never experienced something that was so closely related to my faith, or so controversial in a way. Being prepared for that through Launch was really valuable.”
She was also challenged to think about evangelism in a way that she never had before. “As a whole, everything in TSCF is outwardly focused – focused on getting out there and doing things like that,” she said. “Up until Launch, I hadn’t been around such a big group of people who were so focused on evangelism.”
A side effect of thinking about evangelism, Annelise said, is that it has kept her from focusing too much on herself and her own studies this year– “it’s how I’ve not gone ‘recluse’.” She has stayed involved with fellow students, both Christian and non-Christian, in a more consistent and intentional way than the self-described introvert would have otherwise. She observed that while university provides more opportunities to meet new people than high school did, it’s much harder to develop those relationships.
Regarding faith, one of Annelise’s key discoveries has been how fundamentally holistic Christianity is. “Everything you do, from your lifestyle to what you study to everything – faith has an impact on that,” she said.
Next year she will serve on the executive committee of Auckland’s Evangelical Union. She said that the old (and original) EU, which celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2017, represents the ministry of TSCF well. “I was really inspired by TSCF’s values, and the things that TSCF stands for as well as the vision that they have for students,” she said. “It’s different from what I’ve experienced before. … It makes me get outside my comfort zone.”
Students who come into university with strong family and church support may not immediately see the value of becoming part of a Christian community on campus – a community that can never replace a local church.
“University definitely has its own set of challenges that aren’t exactly easy to discuss within the church, just because those who aren’t in uni don’t really understand the current context of the university,” Annelise said. “I think it’s always changing, and that’s really good but it brings different challenges.” Being able to work through this with others who are also on the ground has been helpful.
“[Church] wasn’t really focused on evangelism, because I think the focus is kind of on your faith – which is good as well,” she said. “But I realize now how much of an opportunity university is, how people are already thinking about the deep things in life. Why not put it into the conversation while they’re here?
“University is the place where you form your life opinions, your life career. It’s so future-focused. It’s the perfect time to decide what you believe in.”