10 Victorious Tips for a Christian International Student

International Student Edition

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ”–2 Corinthians 2:14. Our Heavenly Father calls us to a daily life of victory in Jesus; this is impossible by our own strength but doable by the power of the Holy Spirit. And for Christian international students, this means being an overcomer instead of struggling to survive, being depressed, or compromising our faith. Here I share 10 of many victorious tips that helped me make it as a Christian international student amidst the perverse generation of my university.

  1. Pray, pray, pray: I can’t emphasize enough how prayer helped me sail through my journey as an international student. Whenever I was afraid, I prayed; whenever I was going through a struggle, I prayed; whenever I needed money, I prayed, etc. I like a passage in Matthew 26:41 which says “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Ask the Father daily to fill you with the Holy Spirit, there’s no way you can make it without Him. Pray, pray, pray, let God be your first resort to all challenges.
  2. Read, study, and apply the Bible: There’s a scary passage in Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” I call it ‘scary’ because it shows us that lack of love and knowledge of the Word of God destroy us! If Jesus used Bible verses to oppose the devil during His 40-day fasting in the desert, what makes us think that we can be victorious without the Bible? I understand that university life is extremely busy and exhausting, however, if you recognize the importance of knowing the Word of God, you will make adjustment to your saturated schedule.
  3. Fast: Fasting is a spiritual discipline that works! When you decide to set aside food to concentrate on the Lord, it builds you up and gives you power to overcome the desires of the flesh. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come”-1 Timothy 4:8.
  4. Listen to praise music: When I listened to praise music in my dorms, it uplifted my spirit. Especially when I used to listen to songs from back home, it brought such a comfort. Listening and singing to praise music relieved me when I was sad, afraid, or anxious. If possible, find a way to play praise music 24/7 in your room, you will be blessed.
  5. Be open to new types of friends: One of the ways to enrich your international experience is to be open to new types of friends. Don’t just limit yourself to the people of the same community as you. Be willing to interact with people of different nationalities, religions, social statuses, races, or cultures; you can learn a lot from them.
  6. Learn to be responsible:  Learn how to cook healthy meals, clean your place (without grumbling), pay bills on time, submit school assignments on time, repair things on your own as much as possible (e.g. troubleshoot PC, sew a shirt button), spend money wisely, and so on. 
  7. Look for a job or volunteer position: This will help in taking your mind away from homesickness while increasing your skills and building up your résumé. Depending on the position you find, it can open an opportunity to assist those in need and erase your self-centeredness.
  8. Be careful who you associate with: Whether it be friends or church members, be sober and vigilant in all things. Don’t get carried away by the behaviors of unspiritual friends. You can interact with them but don’t familiarize yourself with their lifestyle. Churches of nowadays are not led by the Holy Spirit, so be careful not to associate with vision killers or the devil’s agents. “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits”-1 Corinthians 15:33.
  9. Be a good testimony of Christ: The world is used to see Christians disgracing their God through shameful acts, now this is the opportunity to show them another picture. A favorite verse of mine is 1 Peter 2:12 “be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” When we submit to the Word of God, it provides us with wisdom (Prov1:7) to make great decisions. And just imagine the difference it will make for your friends/classmates to experience the presence of Christ through you; living a godly life will speak louder than any words.
  10. Your grades may not be good at first, but press on: This is an issue I encountered during my first semesters in university: My grades were not good. I was trying to adjust to everything while studying as a maniac that my grades got affected along the way. I was used to getting great grades in high school that these results came as a shock.The Lord taught me to press on, do my best and leave the rest to Him. And this is what I will advise you too. Don’t make school your god, don’t let your studies consume you, rather honor the Heavenly Father and it will go well with you.

Staying Grounded in the Faith

International Student Edition

Studying abroad really tests our zeal for the Lord. It’s easier to be dedicated for Christ back home because we have friends, family, and pastors to cheer us up. Now as international students, we need to discipline ourselves as we no longer have that physical support around us. Regardless of the country or school we go to study, it’s highly probable that the people or students there have little to no interest for the things of God. We are now surrounded by individuals who live immoral lives; additionally, academic busyness, financial stress, homesickness, loneliness, and other factors jump into the equation. Now we become tempted to follow the crowd or slow down our zeal due to circumstances. How do we stay grounded in our values/faith despite the pressures?

I’m glad the Word of God has several examples of people who experienced comparable situations to teach us the right way. Let’s take Daniel who was deported to Babylon (a pagan country) away from his family, nation, and comfort zone. As the king’s servant, Daniel had to eat delicacies that were previously sacrificed to idols; many Hebrew men alongside Daniel followed the crowd, however, Daniel took a step of faith with his three friends and renounced to defile themselves, “but Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself”-Daniel 1:8. This teaches us something important: In order to stay grounded in our faith as international students, we need to make it a resolution. We have to be serious about the decision to stay grounded in the faith and constantly pray God to help us to do so.
This leads us to our second task: Pray. For this, we take the example of Paul in prison in Rome. In his letter to the Philippians, he says the following: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy”-Phil 1:3-4. Despite the prison’s conditions (Phil 4:12), he still devoted time to pray and not only for himself but also others. Again, how serious are we to stay grounded in the faith? When we understand the surrounding danger, then we’ll make the effort to pray fervently and regularly despite our busy schedule. Furthermore, Paul loved the Word of God, in 2 Timothy 4:13, while he’s suffering greatly for Christ (2 Tim 2:9), he asks for parchments. These were animal’s skin used as material to write copies of the Bible. This hence shows the extreme necessity to stay in the Word when we’re under pressure.
Our last example is Joseph the son of Jacob. I think his circumstance was worse than any international student because he was unwillingly to go to Egypt, let alone as a slave. Just imagine his state! Yet in the midst of his time-consuming agenda, he found it important to serve God, “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand”-Genesis 39:2-3. Joseph could have neglected his duties but he preferred to honor God in all things. As international students, we can be prone to follow what’s popular on campus and go astray, however if we want to stay grounded in the faith we must obey the Word of God no matter what because it’ll go better for us.

All of these advice boil down to one question: How bad do we want to stay close to God? I totally understand the frustration, confusion, and all the mess that go on in school. I remember at one point having no friends in my dorm just because I did not follow the lifestyles of the other girls. Did that bother me? Absolutely, but the Lord was my strength and at the end of the day, I didn’t defile myself. If today we were told by a doctor unless we take time to exercise 30 minutes a day we’ll die of a heart attack, I’m sure all of us we’ll take this seriously and do it despite our crazy schedules. More serious than health is our spiritual state that can be corrupted if we don’t take care of it. The Lord will give you strength to do His will if you choose Him instead of the world.

Seize the Opportunity!

International Student Edition
My heart goes out to the international students around the world because I was once an international student and know exactly what it means! It’s an entire experience of its own when you have to embrace a new country, culture, language, food, and all the things that follow. There needs to be an adaptation process in order to adjust to the new environment, however as born-again Christians, we shouldn’t forget that we’re missionaries wherever the Lord sends us: So, we should seize this opportunity!
In general, the nations that welcome us give everyone the freedom of religions. In Canada, I had classmates from Muslim, Orthodox, pagan, Buddhist, and even witchcraft backgrounds.
After taking the time to settle down, I decided to make myself useful for the kingdom of God as I saw the need for Jesus in my friends of various beliefs. I couldn’t approach them with a Bible and preach because we all know how aggressive people get when it comes to the things of God. I did what Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12 advise. The latter verse says: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.”
My friends surely didn’t have a good image of Jesus due to what they heard or saw around them, therefore it was my duty to be the best Christ’s ambassador I could be: Live a life of integrity, walk according to God’s Word, and show them what true love is.
I’ll never forget a compliment I received from one of my Muslim friends towards the end of the school year, she said: “Christie, if it were that easy I would become a Christian just because of what I’ve seen in you; however, if I make that decision my family will definitely wage war against me and I fear that.” Whether my friend ever becomes a child of God or not (which I pray she does), I’m glad that I was able to seize the opportunity to show her the love of God.