More to life than school

Every September, students at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, take a field trip to a large second hand store and pick out outlandish costumes to get soaked, whipped-creamed and muddy in at the Launch Olympics.

The ridiculous, school-wide event is an important part of life at Redeemer, says Micah van Dijk, activities and orientation coordinator.

Team based events like the mud pit tug of war and sponge relays "help new students transition from high school life," he explains.

"The Launch Olympics give us a chance to join together as a community. Our ultimate goal is that new students get out of their shell a bit, and have an experience they can bond over."

He says opportunities to unwind and have fun are an important part of life on Christian campuses.

"People are overall more successful in life if they have a strong community surrounding them. If you miss a class, who are you going to borrow notes from? Who are you going to study with? There's so much to learning outside academics and a lot of the events we do help them explore that."

Team sports enrich experience

Dave Barker, vice president of academics and student affairs at Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge, says he wouldn't want to imagine what student life would be like without school sports.

"It provides the students an outlet," says Barker, who also used to coach the hockey team. "It develops school spirit. It also provides students an important opportunity to live out their faith outside of their safety zone.

"When you're in a little bubble, like Bible college, it can all become rather safe. Everyone is living out the same life and speaking the same language. But when you're out on the ice your faith is on the line. Tempers fly. Students blow it—in font of people they know well. It's a chance for them to grow, learn and seek redemption."

Bringing diversity to the foreground

"Intentional fun" also throws students alongside those from different backgrounds, says Marlin Reimer, director of student development for Providence University College and Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba.

When attending Providence as a student, he found the diversity of the student body a significant change from the mainly Mennonite community he'd grown up in.

"Providence was a huge learning experience," Reimer says. "I remember thinking, 'Wow, you're a Christian and you believe that?' Who I became was shaped by a lot of those relationships.

"A lot of life—a lot of who a student becomes—happens outside the classroom. Learning to respect and appreciate the diversity of our world plays a big role in the development of character and integrity, and in learning how to be a leader and a servant."

Creating new adventures

All colleges agree that spontaneous fun can be just as important as planned activities. But some schools are better set up for it than others.

Viktor Karklins was on student council at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan, and is now on staff as the school's web technician.

He says Saskatchewan's "wonderful flatness" pushes students into creative community.

"In most schools there is so much around that students can have their separate lives," he says. "But at Briercrest we help students come up with their own adventures. The best part of being on student government was enabling people to do what they're passionate about."

For him it meant finding musical outlets—from large scale concerts to tiny impromptu jam sessions.

"Having fun isn't about wasting time. It's getting to perform to a group of 50 or 100 people crammed into a dorm room or coffee shop. It's about getting a group of friends together and having the courage to try something new."

Fun encourages spiritual growth

Finding those opportunities is especially important in schools with large commuter populations, like Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C.

Bria Martens, a second year student, lives off campus and is on student council.

"When you don't live in dorm," she says, "sometimes you have to go out of your way to spend time with people. It's all too easy to just go to class and then go home.

"But at the time of life we're in it's so important that we have the support of a group. When you're growing in your relationship with God and you're learning so much, you can't do it on your own. We need to grow together, learn together and live together. Having fun together helps you do that, and reminds you there's more to life than school."

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