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Sewickley area students offered advice on coping with challenges of college

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 7:16 p.m.
Sydney Eyrich
Sydney Eyrich

When Sydney Eyrich of Glen Osborne went to college last year, she said, it seemed as if everything was a cause for tears.

The first tears flowed after she saw her tiny room at the University of New Mexico for the first time with her father.

“Then my dad said, ‘Don't worry. We'll make it cute.' That made me feel better,” said Eyrich, a 2012 Quaker Valley High School graduate. “But, when my dad left, I was lonely and terribly homesick.”

Eyrich was one of the people who advised high school students about how to keep their Christian faith alive while in college during a “College 101 Seminar” last month at St. Stephen's Church's Henning House in Sewickley.

Eyrich initially had plans to attend another school but then reluctantly changed her plans when she received a scholarship to University of New Mexico.

“I would lay on my bed and cry and ask God, ‘Why?' I didn't know why he called me there.”

It wasn't long before Eyrich began to understand after attending the Urbana Christian missions conference in St. Louis to learn about missions work. She had been thinking of transferring to another college, but after the conference, she thought God wanted her to stay.

After she receives a bachelor's degree in media arts and photography, Eyrich said, she plans to get her master's degree at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge. From there, she'd like to have a career in college ministries to help students at a university.

“Find a church home,” she advised the students attending the seminar. “They love college students. They'll want to feed you all the time.

“Pass up the keg to go to a Christian group. It will be awesome, and you won't miss out. Do what God says, and you'll be OK.”

The Rev. Steve Palmer, an assistant pastor at St. Stephen's, told students to remember they won't be the only ones who are lonely and insecure at college.

“Other people are really struggling, too. Look for those people who are sitting alone, reach out to them, and say ‘Hello,'” said Palmer, a graduate of Wheaton College, near Chicago.

Laura Zimmerman, assistant director of student ministries and a 2009 College of William & Mary graduate, told students to place a Bible on their desk to remind them to put God first; make it a habit to depend on God instead of just themselves; pursue Godly activities such as Christian groups instead of just waiting to see what happens; think of fun things to do; and always take someone with them.

Four other recent college graduates also gave advice:

• Mandy Yarger of Ambridge, a 2010 Geneva college graduate, said while she was in college, she gathered groups of friends to volunteer at a soup kitchen. She advised students to also invest in their ministry; share their faith with others; get into a leadership position such as resident assistant to connect with people and to learn from the responsibility; stay busy to keep from getting homesick; form a study group to make friends; and don't take on too much the first year.

• Megan Carey of Sewickley, a 2012 University of Pittsburgh graduate, advised students to try new things and get out of their comfort zone but also to come out of their four years saying they learned a lot and have the experience to get a job.

Although she thinks it's a good idea to get involved in Christian groups, she advised also making friends with others to be a “light” to them just by being their friend.

“It's a great opportunity to live your faith in front of them,” she said.

•Shaun Starkey of Bellevue, a 2009 graduate of Christopher Newport University in Virginia, said students should keep in contact with their parents and watch out for FOMO — Fear of Missing Out — which he had early on in college but then decided to just do certain things with his time, one of which was hanging out with his Christian group.

•Caleb Vits of Sewickley, a 2009 Grove City College graduate, advised students to find small ways to serve others, such as sending notes to people through intercampus mail just to tell them good luck on a test and that they are praying for that person.

He also told students that they don't necessarily have to go to a Christian college.

“It's all about where God wants you to be,” he said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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