$$$MONEY$$$

International Student Edition

Money is on the mind of most international students. How do I pay for my tuition fees, rent, feeding, clothing, and other expenses? How do I financially support my family back home? For international students, unable to get a job on campus and unauthorized to work off campus, the struggle becomes real.

I Am Free! I Can Do Whatever I Want!

International Student Edition

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 8.09.49 PMImage: iStock

I realized this one thing when I became an international student in Canada: I.Am.Free!!! I can do whatever I want and no one is watching me! My family is far away and nobody here cares about what I do or don’t do! I can pretend to be the good daughter on the phone with my parents; I can lie however I want because they have no way to verify the information. I am free!!! I can follow the popular trends on campus, go out with friends all night, who cares? I am free!!!

I praise the Lord that this was just a realization and not my reality. These thoughts crossed my mind so many times, but I praise the Lord that I chose another path. Though I had the freedom and space to do whatever pleased my heart, I opted to discipline myself. I had a specific time to be back at the dorm on the weekends, I made sure to study the Word of God daily, I took one day a week to simply relax, I avoided university parties, and etc. At times I wondered why? Why am I disciplining myself rather than living out the vibrant university life? I remember that a few of my friends used to mock me saying that my life was nothing but boring, that I was in short ‘lifeless’. I didn’t want to do whatever, whenever, and with whoever due to my relationship with God and my determination to stay pure. My Christianity has never been for the sake of my parents or church; I believe and serve God for who He is and what He has done in me. Hence, it was and is still important for me to walk in communion with God. Even if I chose to lie to my parents about my lifestyle choices, God was there to see everything; how could I then face Him during my prayer time? I really cared about what He thinks of me, that is why by the grace of God I didn’t just do anything and everything. One of the reasons why many international students abandon the way of God in university is because their faith was never a personal affair but a familial or traditional one. Consequently, it’s easy to digress.

1 Corinthians 10:23 “ ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is edifying.”

I was determined to stay pure as I didn’t want to be involved in destructive choices. The freedom is there on campus to do whatever, yet are all things constructive? I could have attended the weekly pub night on campus but what would I have gained in that? Time with friends coupled with exposure to alcohol, promiscuity, and the like. Being pure didn’t mean that I locked myself in the room except for class time, on the contrary, it simply meant that I carefully selected my activities to ensure no conflict with my purity goal. Purity was essential for me because I wanted to have a clean conscience both spiritually and physically; I didn’t want to be meddled with choices that would slowly lead me away from God, get me intimate with a man before marriage, or just damage my body as a whole. I just wanted to be pure.

Who was watching me anyways as an international student? No one. I could do whatever, wherever, with whoever but with the power of the Lord, I made the conscious decision not to in order to preserve my relationship with my Heavenly Father and stay pure. Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible but not everything is edifying.

In Style with the Crowd

International Student Edition

It’s a new country with new people who talk, dress, behave, and live differently than you, an international student. You want to identify with your new mates by changing your accent, dressing like them, taking on their habits, etc.There is nothing wrong with imitating their ways, just as long as it does not oppose the Word of God. International students, in majority, are eager to immerse in their new culture (which is totally fine); nonetheless, there is always a need for discernment, as Exodus 23:2 says “You shall not follow the multitude to do evil”. In the process of ‘becoming one’ like the host countrymen, ask yourself if there are any areas threatening your faith. How is your new way of talking? Are you cussing, insulting, mocking, or lying like your new mates? How is your new fashion sense? Are you revealing private areas, wearing tight-fitting outfits, or maybe neglecting your body (which is God’s temple) like your new mates? Are you now clubbing or pushing God to the side like the popular campus trend?

International student ladies, you must to be sober and vigilant, and not follow the multitude to.sin. You need to meditate on the Word of God as to have a clear mind on what is and is not sin. Otherwise, if you don’t grow in your knowledge of God, then you will easily be deceived on campus to start calling ‘right’, ‘wrong’, and ‘wrong’,’right’. Let’s glorify our Father in all we say and do!

A Healthy Balance Between God and School

International Student Edition

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image: Single Sisters in University

It is a blessing to be an international student when you think about the countless people back home that would love to seize such an opportunity. With expensive tuition fees and families looking up to them, international students (especially those whose countries are not doing too well) consequently feel the urgency to make something of themselves. They work hard in school to step up their game. Though this enthusiasm is good, the potential risk is to prioritize education before God.

I remember as an international student, I wanted to make my family proud and show especially my father that his huge investment in my academics wasn’t in vain. As a result, I was working very hard by constantly visiting the library, studying until dawn, and etc. My time with the Lord was not neglected per se, however, my attitude became different: If I had to succeed then it was up to my own efforts. For other international students facing this situation, it could be that they sacrifice their time in prayer or Bible study to concentrate on homework, papers, and tests.

I thought I was on the right route until I realized that despite my labor, my grades were not doing as well as my efforts. It became extremely frustrating! Other students came gradually become overwhelmed, depressed, and exhausted by the amount of energy they’re investing in school. That’s when John 15:5 comes to play: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Whether we think we can do it all without God or neglect time in His presence, there comes a point where circumstances show us that we are only human and can only do so much. Just like a branch cannot survive outside the vine so is our relationship with Jesus. It’s true that we can point out to people in the world who are prospering without God, but my question is: Under what condition? What did they sacrifice in order to get to the top? It could be their family time, purity, good morals, etc. For the children of God, it shouldn’t be the same if we want to succeed in school, it’s to be done with the power of God.

In my case, after the Spirit convicted me, I began asking the Lord for His leadership on how to conduct my study time. At the start of every academic task, I prayed and dedicated it to God; I did what I could for the day and if I felt tired or sleepy I surrendered the rest to God, no more sleeping at dawn. For the students who just can’t find time for God, they have to begin slowly. For example, read one Bible verse per day, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you understanding on it, then go about meditating and obeying that verse throughout the day. When praying before your meals, take a little longer to thank and chat with God. Take small but consistent steps, the Lord will increase your knowledge and thirst for His Word and presence. Train your heart to obey the Lord little by little. Walk towards having a healthy balance between God and school.

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.