People who willingly pack their bags and leave the place that they’ve known as home all of their lives have always fascinated me. Then on 12 September 2015, I became one of those people. I embarked on my very own journey across the Atlantic Ocean from the beautiful Caribbean island of Nevis. My destination? The promised land…Loughborough (lol)! There, I would begin a brand new adventure at university.
Moving to Loughborough was a massive change for me. It meant residing in a country where I’m no longer part of the ethnic majority, the weather is dangerously unpredictable and the population of my university surpasses the entire population of my island! However, I could not view these things as hurdles or obstacles because I felt called to Loughborough. This was not for selfish gain or to please other people but for God to use me in ways that are beyond my wildest dreams.
I know it may sound a bit funny to some but I really do like to think of Loughborough as my own promised land. Just as God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, I strongly believe that God has promised Loughborough to me for a purpose far greater than myself. Before arriving, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was definitely excited but also full of fear that I would never be able to cope in my new environment. Fortunately for me, that fear stirred up such a faith in my heart to dare to believe God’s ultimate plan for my life.
After being here for nearly a year, I’ve learned how to survive and actually thrive in my promised land. Here are my 4 top tips on how to thrive in your promised land. If you’re an international student like me, I hope you’ll find this particularly helpful:
1) Accept that you are a stranger in a strange land
As an international student, it was important for me to recognise that I’m DIFFERENT. I would always stand out in a crowd because I look different, I speak differently and I act differently. I had to embrace what was different about me and make no apologies for it. I also had to be intentional about respecting what seems strange to me about British culture. This sometimes meant biting the bullet and silently reciting the old “when in Rome” adage to myself. Other times, it meant a respectful “no” followed by the awkward explanation of why your idea of a cuppa is peppermint tea and not English breakfast. It wasn’t very long until I learned to love the peculiarity of it all.
2) Trust God to provide what you need
Being thousands of miles away from home, it’s very easy to get worked up when it feels like things are going awry and no one really cares that you might be struggling. However, in the midst of emotional pity parties, I’ve discovered time and time again that I serve a God who is faithful and capable of meeting my every need. There were times when I was set on passing up amazing opportunities simply because they were worth more than what I actually had in my pocket. God constantly proved that I could trust Him as His provision would always manifest at the right time through people who genuinely wanted to be a blessing to me.
3) Be intentional about making friends
The big mistake I have seen many international students make is to look for their fellow countrymen and stick with them. Although that would allow us to be comfortable in our new environment, it doesn’t allow for growth in character, exposure to different types of people and development of essential people skills. In any context, growth, development and wonderful things happen outside of our comfort zones. I’ve found that purposely engaging with people of different cultural backgrounds has helped me to develop a tolerance and definitely a grace for other people, especially when miscommunication and misunderstandings arise.
4) Get plugged into the right church community
Finding the right group of people that are genuine, compassionate and friendly was of paramount importance to me. I was blessed to have found an incredible community of people at the Junction Church in Loughborough that have surpassed my initial criteria. By getting around these people I’m constantly encouraged, inspired and challenged to go out and live for a cause that is bigger than myself. This meant rising to the challenge of loving people by investing my time into them, being generous with the resources I already have instead of wishing for more and doing things with excellence when I could have done them half-heartedly. This also meant committing to serving joyfully on teams every week at our Loughborough campus as well as committing to serving faithfully at our new Leicester campus launching this October.
This is what makes a journey to the promised land that much more worthwhile!
Chloe Williams is part of the Junction Church. Amongst many other things, she serves on our worship team as well as our Leicester campus team. Find out more about the Junction Church Leicester HERE.