Freshers Week @ St. John’s University!

It’s that time of the year again, and we’re pleased to say we have well over 700 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first-year students enrolled for St. John’s University for the coming school year, which officially starts on Monday September 19, after Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. 100+ of them are actually enrolled in the junior college program of St. John’s University, meaning they’re 15 years old, and opting first for 5-year junior college rather than senior high school ~ I’m so pleased that I met one, Jia-Yun who I recognized from my English Classes at our neighboring junior high school, Xian-Xiao!

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The whole Freshman Orientation / Freshers Week is organized by the St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and involves months and months of hard work, but it does mean that a spiritual element to the Freshers Week can be added, and the emphasis on this being a church school, a Christian-run university, can make a much deeper impression. This year the theme song was ‘Let your dreams fly’, sung many times throughout the week, and the logo on the blue T-shirts.

The chaplaincy staff are helped by the student fellowship group, who’ve now spent a whole 6 days together preparing and helping the whole event to run smoothly.  First came 2 days of preparation and retreat for them, starting last Sunday. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, there was the training for the student leaders who would be running the Freshman Orientation.  Then finally on Thursday and Friday, the 700+ new student gathered for the two days/one night camp here on the campus.

The climax of the student leaders training program was on Wednesday afternoon when they all gathered in Advent Church, and as part of the closing ceremony, we had foot-washing.  This is an annual event, but for our new university president, President Peter Herchang Ay, it was his first experience of foot-washing.  A symbolic 12 faculty, staff and alumni washed the feet of 12 of the student leaders, very meaningful for everyone.  Each of the student leaders was later presented with a certificate and T-shirt.

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During the freshman orientation, this year as every year, all the students visited Advent Church where they learned a little about the history of the university from the chaplain, and were introduced to the student fellowship – who taught them the theme song, the school song and encouraged them all to come along to the welcome dinner event being held in the second week of the new semester.

Then came the climax of the Freshman Orientation on Thursday evening when all the students, leaders and many faculty, alumni and staff gathered in front of Advent Church for a candlelit ceremony, which ended with 2 big fireworks and all the students processing with their candles around the campus, following the cross ~ all trying to keep their candles alight, as it was so windy!

Normally the new students stay overnight in the dormitories on campus, but over the summer, our largest dormitory has been completely renovated, and although more or less finished, is not yet clean enough for the students to sleep in. So tents were erected on the playing field and the campus transformed overnight into a Tent City.  Looked really impressive!

The closing ceremony on Friday afternoon marked the end of a very very busy week for our new acting chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang, our chaplaincy staff, Shu-Jing and Yu-Lin, our student fellowship plus all those who gave so much of their time and energy to help. Well done everyone!

A constant worry throughout the week was the weather. Mostly the rain held off, but by Friday it seemed it could hold itself in no longer, the sky got darker and darker, and about an hour after the new students left for home, there was a massive thunderstorm with torrential rain.  Phew, what amazing timing ~ and thanks be to God for His many blessings!

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