I recently moved to Bristol to begin my first year of university. I had no idea what it would look like or whether I’d be able to meet anyone in person. However I knew how important it was to build relationships and find communities that support both my mental and spiritual health. I was afraid that socially distanced freshers week would leave me socially isolated.
I didn’t know much about freshers week, but I knew that it would be different. With clubs shut, events online, and no more than six people together, I was scared I’d spend my week hauled up in my room on Zoom. I thought it would be awkward at best and lonely at worst. Instead, I have been spending time with my flatmates and becoming familiar with this beautiful city. In contrast to what I expected, I found myself starting to build strong relationships through online and in-person events.
Surprisingly, the ‘Rule of Six’ has seemingly made it easier to build connections. Admittedly, I haven’t met as many people as I may have done, but the time I’ve spent with those I’ve met has been more substantial, because it hasn’t felt frantic or rushed. I had the opportunity to get to know new people well, because we were in smaller groups.
For example the Christian Union ran city tours, where I met people while seeing the best places in Bristol. We spent nearly three hours together so the six of us were able to have in-depth conversations. Had it been a bigger group, I expect we would’ve had more surface-level conversations, answering the same questions repeatedly – ‘what are you studying?’ and ‘where are you living?’ etc. Instead the quality time we had with each other encouraged genuine discussions.
I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to go to church due to restrictions. Even if I could go in person, I was worried I’d have to go alone. Instead, I felt supported by the Christian Union to both find and visit a church. They created a Facebook page with videos from all of the churches and offered to come with you. This was a lot less daunting and I felt immediately welcomed into the community offered by Christian Union.
Arriving at church showed me an opportunity for family and community. It was such a relief to be able to be myself, because subconsciously I had been putting on a front. However, at church I felt able to worship in the company of my family through Christ, without fear of being rejected or judged. I found a community where there was no pressure to be anything but me and it was incredibly refreshing.
Despite how overwhelming the move has been, especially given the coronavirus restrictions, I have really enjoyed being in a new city and there have been more opportunities to meet new people than I expected. I don’t have any other experience to compare mine with, but I am grateful for all the people I have met and the memories I have made already.