Coming to a new setting is always a bit disconcerting. For UC Merced students, the change of seasons adds to the sense of disorientation. During the spring when prospective students come to check out the school for the first time, they see the mountains in the distance. Perhaps they catch a glimpse of a young horse or the grazing cattle.
What they don't see is the corn. Between their introduction to the campus and their move-in date, the cornfields grow to block the view and make the corner of Lake and Yosemite unrecognizable. The sign assures "yes, turn here" but the memory cries out, "wait, where's my school?"
For returning students, new dorm buildings, changes in policies and schedules, and the absence of friends who have graduated and moved on mark the difference of a new year.
There is a story in the Bible where some of the disciples don't recognize the resurrected Jesus. They walk with him and talk with him- even about his own death- but they don't realize that Jesus is right there with them. It isn't until he takes the bread at the table and breaks it that they recognize him. They realize the gift of his presence and turn around to head back into the mission Jesus had set out for them. (Check out Luke 24:13-35 to read the whole story).
Being in unfamiliar territory can make it hard to remember what you set out to do and the purpose that you are here to fulfill. May the presence of God in this new place inspire you to head into the mission that Jesus has for you- in your studies, your relationships, your service to others, and your way of life.