Introduce yourself. What is your first name, what is your major, what is your school, and where have you grown up?
My name is Johan. I’m majoring in Information Technology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. And I grew up in Dubai for about 16 years.
What concerns did you have about making friends as a new student during Covid-19?
One of my biggest concerns was feeling stuck at home off-campus. It was hard for me to cope with the challenges of doing virtual learning, trying to follow instructions, and trying to get connected with people. I did have one in-person class, but there were barely 15 students, and we had a lot of restrictions. So one of the main barriers to getting connected was the lack of opportunities to meet new friends, especially in person. So most of the opportunities came online.
How did you get involved in your new communities?
One of the first reasons I applied to George Mason was the student community and environment. I love the way people talk and interact, but because of the pandemic things changed drastically. I started signing up online for different fairs, events, discussion nights, and other fun virtual activities online.
One of the groups I found on social media was Bridges. I was really intrigued by some of the activities, sessions, and events. I started attending, got connected to a discipleship leader, Bridges staff and online weekly small group Bible studies. And the journey began. My relationship with God grew as I started to learn from the Bible and know more about God.
What advice would you give to a new international student who is coming to the USA during the pandemic?
Get out there, and be available to connect with new people. Say hi. Get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes we tend to feel shy. We tend to feel reserved and feel like it’s much better to sleep with our blankets on top of us and not meet anyone. But get out there and speak to people. Sometimes you may meet people similar to you and your personality, and sometimes you meet people who are different. That’s what helped me a lot when I was a new student in America, and after meeting new people and doing different activities, we’ve developed lifelong bonds.
What have you learned about God during the pandemic?
One of the main things that I learned is that God is always present. He doesn’t fade away, is not absent. He’s always present in any circumstance.
When the world came to a halt because of the pandemic, many of my future dreams and aspirations were gone, like not having a proper college orientation. I did not know what to do. And there was a lot of uncertainty and confusion. I started asking God, “Why is all this happening?” and, “What should I do?” I remember God gave me a sense of direction to move forward, especially when it came to choosing my major. The Lord was there to guide me and he was always present. He was a faithful companion especially when I did not have anyone to talk to during those moments. I prayed and found comfort and joy in those moments. It has been an amazing experience being with God and knowing that he’s always present in every situation of life.