Fourth Year Reflection: Kunrui Peng

Kunrui Peng
Kunrui Peng, ENGR '18

1. How has the gospel changed you during college? How has the Center for Christian Study played a part in that?

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. – Romans 15:7

I was born in Shanghai, China, and grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Moving to Charlottesville my first year, I could count on one hand the number of people I knew at UVA. I was excited to have a roommate for the first time in my life and to meet new people around Grounds. Out of pure chance, the first person I met ended up inviting me to some “Christian lunch by the Rotunda.” I did want to see the Rotunda up close and hear Professor Elzinga speak, so I thought “why not?” Little did I know this place—the Center for Christian Study—would become my home away from home for the next four years.

To this day, I still remember the Move-In Day Lunch skit upstairs, Professor Elzinga’s talk on defending faith, receiving a “gift bag” with a list of ways to get plugged into Christian community, and connecting with upperclassmen over Frisbee (shout out to Joel Reynolds and Michael Goolsby). Above all, I remember feeling like I was welcomed, valued, and cared for regardless of my faith background or whether I was even interested in the Study Center.


2. How would you describe “life at the Study Center”? How has the Center for Christian Study informed your time at the University?

I honestly think that the Study Center is one of the best hidden treasures of UVA, and it’s unbelievable how much it has—often unexpectedly—shaped my college experience.

For starters, where else would you find so many free resources that help evaluate greater treasures in eternity? I’m an engineer, and reading might be my least favorite pastime, but starting first year, I’d pack my bags full with books from the library before summer breaks: Mere Christianity, Reason for God, Perelandra, The Screwtape Letters, Counterfeit Gods, Crazy Busy, Life Together; the list goes on. In retrospect, that investment paid major dividends—there’s so much wisdom to be found upstairs in the Study Center library.

Kunrui Family Weekend 2018
Kunrui and fellow Elzinga Residential Scholars Annie and Valentine welcome parents and students at the Study Center's 2018 Family Weekend Reception.

Second year, I coincidentally found my camp counselor job when I walked into the backroom to say hello to a friend. Not knowing that there was actually an info session taking place, Doug Smethurst asked me, “Are you here to learn about camp, or are you just here to say hi to Eddie?” Not wanting to lie, I answered with the latter, and he responded with, “Why don’t we see what God has planned and talk over coffee tomorrow?” The rest is history—a summer of spiritual growth, an awful lot of patience testing, and counselor friends to last through the ages.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. –Proverbs 17:17

Third year, I pulled more all-nighters at the Stud with friends in my major than I could have ever imagined. We chose the Study Center for these late night sessions because we sought a less stressful space that didn’t close at midnight, would bring a sense of peace, and accept us regardless of how down we felt because of our schoolwork, internship searches, or other commitments. I can’t recall specific moments or actions, but in the smallest ways the Study Center community (friends, staff, literally everyone) continued to remind me what truly matters during those difficult semesters—not the grades on my engineering projects, the state of my résumé, or getting that internship I wanted so badly, but rejoicing in the Truth of the gospel. There’s something powerful about Christ-centered community. Furthermore, at the end of the year I realized that these difficult semesters created some of the deepest friendships I’ve made in college.

Finally, I’d like to point out that the building itself is a blessing! Leading a core group for Chi Alpha, my favorite one-on-one location is the upstairs library during sunrise (admittedly, I did schedule some of these immediately following my all-nighters).

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgive you. – Colossians 3:13

This year, I have the privilege of actually living at the Study Center through the Elzinga Residential Scholars Program with a group of eight guys I would never have otherwise lived with. Knowing the importance of community is one thing; building, investing, and intentionally living in Christ-centered community is another. It’s been a difficult learning experience, but one that I’ll value for the years to come. And having Jay McCabe as a mentor is pretty great, too.


3. Your time as an undergraduate student at the University is coming to a close. What are your immediate or long-term vocational aspirations?

I’ll be moving up to Northern Virginia in a few months to begin working as a Product Manager and Business Analyst at Capital One. I’m not sure what to expect or what comes after, but I’m excited to see what God has in store.


4. What role has the Study Center played in preparing you for the next stage(s) of your life?

In midst of a broken world and unmet expectations, the Study Center community has taught and reminded me time and time again that I’m defined not by what I do, but who I am. I am an adopted child of God—a sinner who is loved unconditionally, sought out recklessly, and redeemed by Christ alone. That’s the Good News, and the only logical response is humble and joyful obedience to the God who loved first, and moving out to share that news with others.

Kunrui Peng, ENGR ‘18