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Keeping Your Christian Faith While in College

Meet Marielle and Chanelle. Marielle is an incoming college freshman and is getting advice from Chanelle, who graduated college last year and actually moved away overseas to study abroad. They’re having the tough conversation on how to keep your faith while away in college with new found freedom and surrounded by so much temptations. They’ll talk about how college can actually be a time to be even closer to God.


Aliw: Hey, it’s Aliw. It’s now August, and here, where I live, in the Bay Area, the weather’s getting cooler, and our days are getting shorter. You know what that means, summer’s winding down and it’s almost time for students to head back to school. So, this episode is for students! Specifically, college students who are leaving home for the very first time. 


And even if you’re not moving, but are still about to go to college, I understand that that change is profound and challenging in itself. I’m a mom of two college students, myself, so trust me, I know! 


These are the challenges that Marielle and Chanelle talk about in this episode, and more specifically, trying to hold on to their Christian faith while they’re in college. We’re bringing back this episode from our first season because what they talk about is timeless. 


I want to thank them both for being so honest and brave during this conversation, and letting us all be a part of it. And I hope you’re able to share this conversation with someone in your life who’s about to face this milestone. 

(music fades in)

Marielle Magno: Why I liked University of San Francisco is because I could still easily go home. It’s not that long of a commute. But I’m also far enough to be pretty independent, but still be close to home. 

Chanelle Amoguis: That must be exciting. What are your feelings right now? You know, thinking about dorming and moving?

Aliw Garcia Pablo: Meet Marielle and Chanelle. Marielle is an incoming college freshman, sitting down and talking to Chanelle who graduated college last year. 

Marielle:  So like, while you were in Korea, um, how, how did you like to stay true to your faith and not be easily tempted and influenced, while dorming and being away from home?

Chanelle:  That’s a good question. 

Aliw: Studies show that there’s a growing trend that reveals that some college freshmen aren’t just preparing to say goodbye to their families. They’re preparing to say goodbye to their faith as well.  With newfound freedom and away from the eyes of their parents and temptations everywhere. What can one do to keep their Christian faith strong and thriving while away in college

Chanelle: Setting boundaries is so important. And you have to constantly tell yourself like, this is a line and this is a line that I will not cross.  And they say “will not” instead of “cannot” because if you say “cannot” it’s like you’re restricting yourself. But if you say “will not” that puts you in control of your decision… 

Aliw:  So, today we’re having that tough conversation. Is it possible to remain as a true and faithful Christian while away in college? A phase in life that the world says is a time for exploration and self discovery? Or could college actually be a time that can bring a person even closer to God? I’m your host, Aliw Garcia Pablo, and you’re listening to Making Changes.

[Show Open]

Aliw: Marielle was so excited to be asked to be part of this podcast. She starts her freshman year at the University of San Francisco in the Fall. She’ll be getting advice from Chanelle from Hawaii, who moved 1000s of miles away from her family, and studied in South Korea. We’ll hear about real life experiences and real world advice from one Christian to another and learn tips on how to navigate around the changes that come during this part in young adulthood but always with God by their side. Let’s listen in.

[Music ends.]

Marielle: Hi, Chanelle. Thank you so much for being here to talk to me today. 

Chanelle: Hi, Marielle. I’m so happy to talk to you today. I’m excited. 

Marielle: Yay, me too. I’m so excited as well. So nice to meet you. 

Chanelle: How are you?

Marielle: I’m good. How are you?

Chanelle:  I’m doing great. It’s a bit hot over here, so I’m sweating a little bit in nervousness and excitement. But I heard you graduated recently. Congratulations!

Marielle: Thank you. I graduated. Thankfully, it was an in person graduation. So I gotta have it in person. A lot of students, so 800 students to graduate class. And you got too?

Chanelle: I did, I did. It’s like during the pandemic back in 2020. So we didn’t have an in person graduation, unfortunately, because you know, the pandemic was pretty new. So everybody was just like on lockdown. I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Yeah, I know. It’s a pretty big school. And I also heard that you’ll be moving away as well. Where are you going?

Marielle: Yeah, I’m going to move to the University of San Francisco, which is just like around 40 minutes away, but I’ll be dorming there.

Chanelle: You’ll be dorming there. So this is your first time being away from your family. 

Marielle: Yeah, it is. Did you move away for school too? 

Chanelle: I did. I, yeah. When we look back on it. I just remember all the good memories and the fun times I had, but it was back in 2017.  I studied abroad in South Korea for a semester. 

Marielle: And what did you study? 

Chanelle: Um, basically all things: Korean language, Korean history and Korean culture. Yeah, I got it. Yeah, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity come to me by a friend. He told me that there’s a scholarship that hardly anyone applied to and if I did it, there’s a high chance I’d get it. I just had to turn in paperwork, pass the interviews, and yeah, they pretty much paid for everything. You know, you have the whole experience. 

Marielle: That’s so cool. That’s awesome. 

Chanelle:  And Kpop is a great motivator, you know, and learning new languages, which is what helped me for my major in Korean.

Marielle: Yeah. So what was it like dorming especially in a different country too?

Chanelle: For me dorming in a different country. It was very exciting, very terrifying. But the terrifying didn’t come until later, you know. When I first heard it, you know, all that excitement washes away any types of fears, stresses that I had because of this, like the idea of studying abroad into a country that you’ve grown up wanting to travel to– to visit, ever since you’re a kid, like, in my case, especially, it’s just like, no, this is I’m all in. No problems here at all. So yeah, I was very happy. And my parents were excited for me as well.

Marielle: So like, while you were in Korea,  how did you like, stay true to your faith and not be easily tempted and influenced while dorming and being away from home?

Chanelle: Oh, that’s a good question. For me, I really surrounded myself with friends who shared the same goals, and respected my values and boundaries. And one of the biggest culture shocks that I’ve seen firsthand was the drinking culture in Korea. Like it’s so common that you see it in Korean dramas, pop culture, even among the most popular k idols, they promote it in their advertisements, like it’s become normalized. And it hits you when I, as a student, of course, my friends would at the time, my classmates would ask me to go out and, and hang out and drink at the bars with them. Like they do it every day. Not saying that all Koreans drink every single day. But you know, it’s hard when there’s influences left and right, even more so there. And it’s not just Korea. It’s everywhere around the world. 

Marielle: Yeah, exactly. 

Chanelle:  Yeah, it’s easy to get caught up and distracted with influences around you. But you, keeping that awareness of your boundaries… Setting boundaries is so important. And you have to constantly tell yourself, like, this is a line. And this is a line that I will not cross and I say “will not” instead of “cannot” because if you say “cannot,” it’s like you’re restricting yourself, but if you say “will not” that puts you in control of your decision that this is something you’re not going to do. And don’t be afraid to tell people “no.” Don’t be embarrassed if your values are different from others, because sometimes, you know, you think that they’re going to react weirdly or they’re going to look at you differently. Like, no, really, like if you just say no, they’ll be like, okay, because sometimes it’s just as simple as that. And if they ask why it’s, you can just tell them and they’ll be like, okay, cool, I understand it’s fine. You know, and if they keep pushing, maybe these are the types of people that you shouldn’t be around. So you know what’s right from wrong. And don’t put yourself in a position where your boundaries are compromised. 

And honestly, I’m just really grateful for the friends and family I’ve made in the local of Yongsan and Ansan. Shout out to them. They were always there to keep me busy in my duties in the Children‘s Worship Service or even in INC Radio and attending all of the activities there in Korea, it was so amazing. It really kept me away from those types of influences and reminded me of the foundation of my faith.

Marielle: Wow, I really, Oh, wow, that’s really good advice what sticks out to me the most is “to not be afraid to say “no.” Because yeah, I’m like, I really value friendships, especially even in high school where I already know everyone. But now I’m going into college where I won’t know anyone. Even in my high school. Oh, no one there is going to USF. So I’m going to be surrounded by new faces. And I would, of course, love to, like make some friends. And I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I do end up just so for them to stay my friend, I’ll end up doing certain things like, okay, sure, I’ll do this with you. But it isn’t anything bad. But I would just really want to stay friends with people. So I just really like the advice you say about making sure you have your own boundaries for yourself, and knowing who your right friends are for yourself. Who has a good influence on you.

Chanelle:  I completely understand Marielle because I was like you at that point, too, you know, like, I was passive. I didn’t know how to stand my ground. Yeah, but you know, once you make that first step, everything else will be easier.

Marielle: Okay. Yeah. Cause also I’ve been praying to just like to make sure that…this to God that this is going to be a positive experience for me. And, like, I can tell you right now from the college applications to right now in my USF endeavors, like God has literally been there for me and his timing with all of this college things is so perfect. Cause even from the SATs. I hate taking tests. So even in my devotional prayers,  at one point, I was like, “God, please just let the SATs disappear, so I won’t have to take them anymore.” And the next day, they cancelled because of the pandemic. So I was like,  yeah, I mean, so I didn’t have to take the SAT. And then skip to when I’m starting to apply for colleges. And I decided to apply to seven colleges. And I got rejected from five of them. And waitlisted, actually to USF. And I actually got accepted to the one that I least wanted to go to. So, you know, I was definitely a bit sad, and I was praying to God, like, “please just let this be a positive thing for me and for it all to work out for me.” And then I decided to go to the other college that I got accepted to, and wait out the USF waitlist. And actually, at one point, I stopped praying about USF because I got a bit let down and I was just really sad. And I told my dad that and my dad said, “No, keep praying about USF even if it’s just waitlisted, you still have a chance.” So I was like, Okay, sure. So I put USF back into my Devotional Prayers. And the next week, I got a text from USF saying that their space is open in their school, and then I got accepted. So I literally got accepted into the school that I most wanted to get into. And then the school that I least wanted to get into. But at the end of the day, like I got accepted in the school that I wanted to, and I was like, like this, it’s just so shocking.

Chanelle:  You know, in those types of situations, those are really like lessons that came from God, where you kind of teach you like to be patient or any types of things. So I’m so happy for you. And I’m so excited for you. So what are you going to end up studying? And how far are you going to be away from home again?

Marielle: So I’m going to be studying Nursing, which, and I was surprised too, because I know that their nursing program is really competitive. So God really blessed me with that as well. And I’ll be like, 40 minutes away from home. And also why I liked the University of San Francisco is because I could still easily go home. It’s not that long of a commute. But I’m also far enough to be pretty independent, but still be close to home.

Chanelle:  I see, that must be exciting. What are your feelings right now? You know, thinking about dorming and moving?

Marielle: Oh, well. Funny you asked that because like this morning, I got an email. Oh, 20% off like all mattresses. And, like the beddings. I mean, right now I’m pretty excited for it. There are moments where I’m either going out with a friend, or just kind of out by myself. And I kind of like, you know, think about my family. And just like okay, even my sister was like, oh, when you were out with your friend, Daddy said that this is what it’s gonna be like when you’re out in college. And I’m just like, Oh, yeah. Did you get homesick in Korea a bit?

Chanelle: Um, you know what, because I was so excited. It actually didn’t hit me until later. When I think towards the end of my scholarship program. When everybody’s leaving classes or finishing and like I had to move out of my dorms and into an airbnb to stay until my flight was out. And you know, when I experienced that loneliness that’s when everything started hitting me and you know, falling on me. Because, moving is stressful to begin with, you know. Yeah, so at that time, like, as soon as I got settled in the airbnb that I was going to stay at, I just, I cried it out, honestly. And I cried a lot. And I can easily laugh about it now. But when I look back and think about how much better I felt, I realized that allowing yourself to accept those emotions, and feel it’s a great way to exercise healthy coping mechanisms like your mind, and may want to focus on healing and getting rid of that pain. But the physical act of crying also allows for your body to catch up to those emotions and express that pain because you know, when you have heavy feelings of sadness, or any deep negative feelings, it affects you physically. And I know that there’s an ongoing stigma that expressing your emotions means that you’re soft, or it’s something to feel shameful about. But it’s important to accept those emotions and just let it out. Otherwise, you might turn to other negative vices or influences that would make things worse, you know, and we’re taught as Christians to pray and give all of your worries unto God, every single thing that you’re stressed, you’re worried about you like, from happy to bad, like you tell you tell it to God. And if you can be real to God with everything you’re going through, why not also be real with yourself and face what’s in front of you instead of avoiding it? And that’s what I had to learn and deal with while I was dorming away from my family as a student.

Marielle: So I also wanted to ask, while you were in college, what did you major in?

Chanelle:  So early in high school, I already decided that I wanted to do Journalism. And I’ve been doing Journalism all through my community college years up until University, but at the last minute, I changed to Korean.

Marielle: So how did you manage to balance studies, extracurriculars, and church duties and activities all at the same time? 

Chanelle:  I’m going to tell you, it’s not easy. 

Marielle: So you’ve been asking that question. Oh, I feel the stress already.

Chanelle: Yes, right. Well, as someone who has gone through it, for me, it was understanding what my priorities were, and knowing the full scope of each of my responsibilities, so I can gauge what I need in order to accomplish all of my tasks. I’m going to admit, I’m not like the best multitasker but I always try my best. And I used to be so strict with the schedule that I wrote in my planner to help me keep organized and I organized every single day down to the minute like I would finish this class at this time, I would go to work at this time, all of that I would have, you know, devotional prayer at this time. But, you know, no matter how well you plan, unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. And how I reacted was so bad, I used to malfunction or freak out when a class gets moved up and an appointment gets rescheduled, or when two activities conflict with each other. But what I did is like, once I reminded myself, that it’s not my fault, and these things are out of my control, it opened my mind for a new solution to tackle the issue at hand. And you know, that’s also when sacrifice comes in. And sacrifice, it’s never easy. That’s why it’s called sacrifice. But you have to prepare your heart for times when you’re gonna have to make a sacrifice and choose between two things. And that’s also why I have my daily prayers. And in my prayers, I always make sure to ask God for the knowledge to prioritize what’s important. And I also pray for the strength I need to make those sacrifices because it’s gonna take a lot of strength, I’m telling you to make those difficult decisions. And you know what, you never know, God will open up a plan C that will make everything fall into place. 

Marielle: And so even though it was hard to juggle it all with duties in school, why did you decide to try and do it all? 

Chanelle: You know, I always felt that it was worth it in the end. You know, for one, it kept me away from doing bad things. Two, school benefited me for my career, my future and giving me the education I needed and performing my duties gave me the spiritual encouragement and upliftment that I needed to continue on in my current life, like the teachings that you hear in the worship service, or in any of the activities, they’re there to guide you on how life is how life will be like. And I, even though it’s so hard it was. So it was such a struggle, just knowing that God always had my back. He was always there answering my prayers, and granting me blessings, whether I knew it or not. He was always there to make sure that I was okay in whatever decision I made, as long as I stayed close to Him. And I remained in constant communication with God, because I know that, you know, as we’re taught in the Worship Services, God will always guide you to a bright path. And that is something I want. You know, like, of course, who doesn’t want bright paths? Of course, you know, I have to make the sacrifices. So there are more benefits to doing so.

 Marielle: Sophomore year of high school, I started to do devotional prayers. And now like, I can’t sleep unless I do my. Yeah. And all I know is that like, at the end of the day, like, every single workout when God is like, on my side, and whenever God is with me, everything will work out. Like my friend, he’ll tell me, well, everything works out for you. Luck is on your side. And I was nodding in my head. I was like, it’s God. Like, this is all God. Like, every single thing that’s happened, and every single thing that I’m thankful for, it’s all because of God. And that’s why I always just thank you in my prayers, like, oh, thank you like, because it all worked out for me. Of course, like, there were times in High School where I just didn’t know what my future was going to be like. And I was definitely scared. But eventually everything worked out and everything will work out in the future, too. How crucial do you think it is to have lots of Church friends, while in college to help you stay strong in your faith?

Chanelle: Oh, I think it’s completely important, it’s most important to a lot of Church friends, because one, who wants to be lonely?  It’s okay, if you want to be alone, but loneliness is different. And you need those friends to be there to support you through every up and down that you have, especially when there are times when it’s difficult for you, yourself to see the positive and things. And having those Church friends, they are the ones who share the same values and understand your boundaries, you all are on the same path in life. And at the same time, you can also trust them to call you out whenever something bad happens, or when there’s something that you shouldn’t be doing. You know, we all need those friends to tell us like, what kind of friends would we be if we allow our friend to do something that would harm them? You know, and we can always trust that our Church friends would be the one to take care of us and make sure we’re not gonna do anything that’s going to harm us physically, emotionally, especially spiritually.

Marielle: Yeah, I totally agree with everything you’ve said here, as Binhis, as teenagers in the Church, we have a deeper understanding of each other. How did you deal with learning philosophies or other beliefs that went against our Christian beliefs? Like, for example, like philosophy classes that may question God’s existence? Yeah. And literature also questions God’s existence as well?

Chanelle: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And funnily enough, I did take a philosophy class, and I did take a world religions class. Well, I really just took it with a grain of salt. Because in the end, you know, you can learn about all these interesting religions, where they came from, and philosophies or, you know, kind of way of life. I understood where my faith was, I knew, like at least, you know, through the Bible studies that we’ve taken before we even got baptized, that already sets the foundation and basis of who God is and where God came from. And I think what a lot of people don’t realize, whenever it comes to having questions about your faith, or about the Bible, especially in my world religions class, you know, like, I was so curious about how other religions came to this conclusion or how, you know, why they believe that God is their God, you know, and the one thing we take for granted as members of the Church of Christ is asking. Just ask the Minister, that’s all it is. Don’t come to conclusions on your own because if you ask a Minister, these are people who have studied the Bible for years and have gotten certified on that. Who would know better,  would be a better source of knowledge than the Ministers that we have? They’re always there ready to answer all your questions. And we actually encourage it. And, you know, I was so grateful that, you know, one of my overseeing CFO Ministers was my source of asking, asking questions, and he would always answer them, and he was always patient with me. So that really helped me to understand and strengthen my faith all the more.

Marielle: Wow. Yeah. In my literature classes, and the books that we read, too. There’s, like my literature teacher, he was like an atheist. And he was pretty vocal to the class about it. And everyone else was pretty vocal about their beliefs, too. And when we would read certain articles about it, and like religious studies, like my eyes were reading, but my mind was like, I know the truth. 

Chanelle: Yes, you have that knowledge? 

Marielle: Yes, exactly. Thank you so much Chanelle, for your time. And for your amazing and helpful advice about college. 

Chanelle: No problem. It’s truly a pleasure to have met you. And to talk about these things. I think it’s really important to bring up, especially for incoming college students like you.

Marielle:  Yeah, your advice really, really helped me. And I’m going to think about it all the time. And when I start school, I’ll remember this, and I’ll listen back to this podcast and hear my weird voice. And I’m really happy and appreciative that I got to do this with you.

Chanelle: You know what, if anything, I’ll always be here. Feel free to message me on my socials. If you need help, advice, talk about Kpop or learn phrases. I am here for you. I appreciate you. 

Marielle: Thank you so much. 

Chanelle: Thank you. 

Aliw: Hi, guys! 

Chanelle and Marielle: Hello. Hi

Aliw:  I’m listening and I can tell Marielle, how much you really, I know you guys just met for this podcast. But when I first asked you if you wanted to be part of this podcast, you were so excited and eager. How important is it, especially for incoming freshmen, to get this kind of insight before starting this new chapter in your life? 

Marielle: Oh, well, I really wanted to have more guidance, and more articulate and clear advice and stories to hear about this too. So I could actually hear what you experienced as well. Like, this actually comforted me. And it really made me feel secure as a member who will be exposed to a lot of worldly things.

Aliw:  And for you Chanelle, what piece of advice do you wish someone told you about your freshman year that could have helped you that you now share with, you know, students like Marielle that’s about to start college?

Chanelle Aoguis: I wish someone told me to keep your mind open, but keep your heart guarded. It’s so easy to get carried away with the excitement of starting out as a new place that you might lose a sense of yourself in the midst of exams and meeting new people. But also be on guard from people who probably focus on too much fun or have different priorities from you. Just protect your heart at all times, protect your faith, because those values are what makes you shine the brightest.

Aliw: That’s a good one.

Marielle: That’s a really good one. 

Chanelle: I wish that someone told me to be prepared for change. That phrase itself is, you can easily take for granted. But Had I known all the changes I would have gone through in the start of my whole college career, it would have helped a lot because you know, as people were constantly learning and growing and developing as their own individuals, you know. Our opinions that we have had before may change now and our outside surroundings may change. We may also lose a few friends along the way. But the one thing that remains constant is yourself. So you should love yourself throughout this whole process of changes. And as we’re preparing for change, we always should make sure to leave room for God’s will. That is what has helped me the most, that is what has helped me with my perspective and how I should carry on through life with every trial that I’ve gone through. And you know, as long as I place my trust in Him and I talk to Him with my heart in every single prayer I know that I’ll never truly be alone.

Aliw:  Speaking of change since our podcast is called Making Changes. What do you think is the biggest change that you went through in your four years of college meaning the freshmen, Chanelle? 

Chanelle: Oh, my goodness. 

Aliw: And then the college graduate, Chanelle. Within those years, what do you think was the biggest change in you that either you had to make or just naturally happened? 

Chanelle:  The biggest change that I’ve dealt with, from you know, my freshman self, to my graduate self is my relationship with God. As a child–like growing up, you know, I’ve always understood where my faith was, and who God is and what role He played in my life. But in my college years, I’ve felt loneliness, deep, deep sadness, and feelings of being miserable, that I had no one to turn to. And that really forced me to, pushed me to talk to God at all times, and in leaning towards God. And in being patient with the lessons that he has taught me. It really has helped me with their perspectives on how I should view the world, how I should be the future. And you know how I am supposed to be at my very best self.

Aliw: Would you say that college is a time in someone’s life where it can either bring you closer to God in your case, or bring you further away from God? Do you think college is that pivotal time in someone’s life? They can do either or, and so it’s really about the choice of making or making that choice to consciously draw closer to God. But it has to be a conscious choice to do it?

Chanelle: Yes, I agree. College is one of those pivotal moments in your life, only because of the amount of temptation that is there. Like it’s so concentrated within your college years that you’re always gonna have to fight, not to say that there won’t be other pivotal moments in your life, but college is the one you should definitely look out for if you do decide to go to college.

Aliw: Well, I learned a lot. But I just want to say thank you guys. And I think that you both . We hope that this conversation is going to help a lot of college students listening out there who may be quietly struggling, right, and we hope that this little conversation will help them. Will help everybody strengthen their faith in some way. So thank you guys for your time. And good luck, Marielle, in college in the fall, and Chanelle, we’re so happy that you’re part of our INC Media family. And God has definitely carved your path for you and even brought you closer to Him. So thank you guys. 

Chanelle: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity.

[Music starts]

Aliw: Thanks to Chanelle and Marielle who were kind enough to open their hearts to us for this episode. And as always, if you found value in what you heard today, share it with someone starting college in the fall.  And if you’d like to see the faces behind the voices, check out our Instagram account @MakingChangespodcast. Thanks for listening and may your change uplift you.

[Music ends]