My best friend, sophomore Sydney Herrick, got a new roommate this year, and we only knew two things about her: her name was Brianna Hanson and she was a sophomore originally from the Middletown campus.
Sydney and I wanted to make sure that whoever this girl was, she had at least two friends to talk to until she got acclimated to campus life in Oxford.
The morning after we moved in, Sydney told me that Hanson had been out until midnight. I was elated. I assumed she had just gone to Brick Street with a group of girls that lived in our dorm. But Sydney had quite a different story.
Hanson came home carrying a Bible.
I had so many questions. How did she meet people so quickly? Is there some sort of late-night bible study on campus I'm not aware of? And, how does someone find their community so quickly on a campus known more for pregaming than praying?
I had to know more.
Hanson immediately made room for me in her busy STEM major schedule, and invited me to a meeting with Cru, a Christian youth organization. I accepted the invitation, not knowing what to expect.
Hanson is from Cedarville, Ohio, a small, conservative town less than an hour outside of Dayton.
"If you didn't go to church on Sunday, you were kind of an outcast," Hanson said.
Her town is home to Cedarville University, a private Baptist university. Her father worked as a youth pastor, and she frequently attended youth group.
"I really got involved in the church to please my parents and to seem like the good kid," Hanson said. But, after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Hanson went through a period of dark thoughts before she found strength in her faith.
"I was home from school for three months straight, I lost friendships, and that's when [my relationship with Jesus] kind of clicked," Hanson said.
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I wondered how she ended up at Miami when the obvious choice for college was in her hometown.
"I knew I wanted to maintain my beliefs, but I wanted to try out a different environment," she said.
She was familiar with Miami's party reputation, and so were her parents. However, on her campus visit, the tour guide mentioned Cru and Hanson knew she would find her niche there.
Hanson attended the first bible study she could and ended up hanging out with some of the people afterwards, explaining the late return to her dorm. She quickly created a group of like-minded individuals just by attending one meeting and has been going to Cru ever since.
I have never considered myself very religious, so I did not know what to expect from a Cru meeting. I assumed that it would be a small group of students sitting in a circle picking their favorite bible verse.
I could not have been more wrong.
The event was held in Wilks Theater in the Armstrong Student Center, and the entire middle section of the theater was full. Students were packed into seats.
The Christian community at Miami was way bigger than I thought it was.
Hanson introduced me to a group of her friends and they asked me what my story was about, and seemed genuinely interested in me. I thought I would be treated as an outsider to the group, but this could not be further from the truth.
I was self-conscious about my nose piercing and my Mickey Mouse neck tattoo, but several people came up to me and complemented both accessories, and I began to feel more comfortable.
They had several speakers throughout the meeting, and Hanson explained they always encourage someone share their personal story. That night, a girl told her story of how a sexual assault caused a spiral into drugs and alcohol, and how it eventually led her to pursue a relationship with God.
She was not raised in a Christian household, but wondered where she would have ended up if a teacher had not asked her to play guitar at their local church. Soon after sharing her experiences, the girl introduced a bible study exclusively for women who are victims of sexual violence, called "Brave: A Restoration Study."
Hanson acknowledged there are a lot of stereotypes that come with practicing her religion.
"Everyone thinks it's about telling people what and what not to do," Hanson said. "But for me it's just about having a relationship with Jesus and doing His works, more so than following a religion."
Throughout the night, they sang songs and gave sermons, and while I did not leave converted, I thought it was nice to be in such a positive environment.
"Brave: A Restoration Study" is being held at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights at the Outpost on 406 E. Withrow Street. Cru holds weekly meetings on 8 p.m. on Thursdays in Wilks Theater in the Armstrong Student Center. For more information on either of these events, email firstname.lastname@example.org.