"It was my first visit to the Vatican, most of us where there for the first time so it was amazing to share that experience."
I’m a third year Business Management student and Treasurer of the Catholic Society. I don’t know if I could survive the university experience without proper faith. Going to mass every week really helps me; at uni I feel like I’m always running and sometimes I don’t even know where, but mass gives me the chance to stop, it’s so relaxing. Keeping my faith fresh is important too, so I pray as much as I can. Sometimes I choose to walk rather than take the bus so I can think and pray.
The Catholic Society is a really good meeting point for students with a belief in God who share the same religion. We try to work with as many students as we can, including those who are perhaps struggling to find their faith. I believe the society has a family feeling and provides a safe place for students who perhaps don’t know where they’re going but see something in faith. Our official number is around 35, but we also have members who didn’t buy the membership. So they still come to meetings, mass and events but are not official members. So with those involved there are probably about 50/55 of us.
Mass is a Faith Centre event, but after mass we stay for sandwiches and drinks. We organise quite a lot of events. So this year we had ‘Discovering Christ’ sessions, watching a video and talking about it and we cooked a proper dinner for everyone, so that was pretty cool. Recently we just came back from Rome, from the Vatican to see the Pope. It wasn’t an official society event, but I organised it with the President of the society and about 90 of us went, so it was a big trip – probably the biggest trip we’ve done. I’m really proud of that trip, how so many people came and we all made it safe and sound. It was my first visit to the Vatican, most of us where there for the first time so it was amazing to share that experience.
We also have weekly meetings and employability sessions. So me and some other girls give a presentation about helping with your CV, career building and stuff like that. We also have study sessions together. But then we do things like breakfast sessions to de-stress and even karaoke nights. It doesn’t necessarily sound like a Catholic thing, but it’s cool.
If you met me in my first year I was so shy, especially around native speakers. I wouldn’t speak to native speakers because I was scared they would judge me. But I know at this point that’s not the case. I’ve changed so much in terms of talking to people and being open. Talking to people used to make me very nervous, whereas now I’m an Ambassador – I talk to people, I take them on tours, I give presentations. It’s amazing for me that I’ve been able to change that much in 2 years. Not being afraid to speak English has been a big thing for me, I’m very proud of it. I think that when I know I’m struggling I push myself to overcome it. So I joined the Public Speaking Society, the people are great and they have great socials but it was so scary. You’d pick a table topic and you have to talk about it for two minutes and there are five people judging you; checking your grammar and time. I was so stressed, I hated it, but I knew I had to push myself.
Essex has given me opportunities to develop my skills and grow. My whole experience has been stressful, there have been challenges but it’s so rewarding. I look back and I see what I’ve achieved; I was a Student Ambassador, now I help teach Maths to first year students, so it’s really cool that I can share my experiences and skills with people. But without the community here I couldn’t have done it. I’ve had some mentors and people who believe in me who have really helped me through it. I come from a different country, I’ve had a different experience, but so many students have come from overseas and I realised that actually they might want to hear what I have to say.
And the Catholic Society community have been great; I’ve made a lot of friends there. I know that when I have problems they are the people who will help me, they’re so supportive. I can talk to them without being judged. It’s really nice to have that community.
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