Updated: Sep 24, 2019
By: Andrea Fanelli
If I were able to go back and say something to my freshman self, I would tell her, “be open, and be willing.” I would tell her to be open to new friendships, to be open to embrace challenges, and to be open to anything that God is speaking to her. Then, I would tell her to be willing to take action. To be willing would be the name of my freshman season.
When I reflect on my first day at Northpoint Bible College, I recall how I was absolutely terrified. I did not know many people, and I was unsure about what to expect. I had met many extremely kind students, professors, and staff, but it was quite an adjustment for me. I soon met McKenna, and she became one of my first friends at Northpoint, but we were both a little shy and overwhelmed at times during our freshman year. I knew we’d be good friends because I later found out she too would go and eat lunch or dinner in her car, like me! Then, we would reconvene back at class—without a word about our weird habit. When I look back on why I wanted to be alone at those times, sometimes it was to just take a
breath and have a moment for myself. Other times, I needed to break away from all the people. I enjoyed having so many others around me, but it was difficult because I did not always want to let them in, and be real.
At Northpoint, many people wanted to know the genuine me. Not just the best, nicest version of me. Coming from a background as a pastor’s kid was difficult because it meant I knew how to put on a face and say the right words. The “cordial church look” was my go-to. The friendships I made were so impacting to who I am today. There were moments where I realized my shortcomings or areas in which I needed to grow. It was vital to have people willing to tell me the truth when I had messed up or when I needed to change. If I could, I would have told my freshman self to be open to more friendships and also to invest in them. The value of honesty and kindness is immeasurable.
Another thing I wish I could have told my freshman self is to be ready for challenges. Transitioning from high school to college was quite an undertaking. My four years of public high school education taught me that I could get by without putting in my best effort. This period of time shaped me to see my grade on a paper as more valuable than the knowledge I had gained from the class. Looking back, there were certainly ways in which I could have pushed myself, but I never saw the need. As I began my first year at Northpoint, my whole perspective changed. I knew it would be more difficult, as it was college. But, there were class assignments that I literally cried over and moments when I wanted to quit.
The professors, and particularly President J.P.’s motto was to, “focus on growth, not grades,” this idea was a bit difficult for me. Due to this motto and many grueling assignments, my freshman year of college was difficult, and it was the push that I needed. In the following years, I really enjoyed the process of learning and then applying that knowledge. This is not to say that I had an immediate change—there were certainly late-night cramming sessions to attest to this—but I saw my schooling differently. College became an opportunity to expand my knowledge and mature myself as a person, and more importantly, as a follower of Christ. Some of the most invaluable information I learned were the things that taught me how to better interact with others—how to share the love of Jesus in a way that matters and draws others to Him. I discovered that it is not about how much I learned but how I applied it. As a result, I would encourage the freshman me to pursue challenges and allow the process to make an impact.
The aspects of friendship and academic challenges were very stretching, but the most significant piece of advice for freshman Andrea would be to remain open to God’s voice and will for your life. It became remarkably easy to allow work schedules, college courses, and even ministry involvement to dictate my life. While trying to juggle a million different tasks, one of the first things to drop was spending personal time with God. I thought that biblical studies and ministry opportunities could somehow stand in for my lack of time spent in God’s presence. Being a worship leader, I remember many moments in which God spoke. He was still working through me; however, I was not developing my personal relationship with Him. I was selfishly thinking that God could just show up in the moments that I needed Him.
I learned that a rich, deep relationship with God is only cultivated when He is at the center of everything. I specifically remember a time when I had a very long day ahead of me and I had a paper to write and then still go to work. The previous Monday, the Northpoint chapel speaker shared that we needed to go to God first, before everything else. Following these instructions, I remember praying, asking God for peace and the ability to get everything done. I put my day in God’s hands, and He really did show up. I had peace over me that day, and I finished all my tasks. A fact of life is that the busyness will never stop. Out of all the lessons I have learned, this is the one I would want most to impart; Freshman Andrea: Putting God first is essential.
Through my experience at Northpoint Bible College, I have realized not only do you have to be open, but you have to be willing. You have to be willing to do each of the hard
things that make you into the person that God designed you to be. Have a community around you that is honest, as well as encouraging. Allow every challenge to come and have the resolve to face each one. When you hear God’s voice: listen and follow. Be open and be willing.