What Do Foreign Students Need From The Christian Community In Bath? Bath Uni Chaplain Angela Berners-Wilson Tells Us.
The Reverend Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson, University Chaplain and Ecumenical Team Leader at the university's Chaplaincy Centre, helps to support a host of students from all over the world. As well as linking with Christians from a raft of denominations and non-Christian groups.
She tells us how she and her team help to befriend and welcome students far away from home and why this is part of the Christian mission. Here she talks about her role.
(PICTURES: ANGELA BERNERS-WILSON, BANG LOGO, CATHOLIC SOCIETY LOGO, JEWISH SOCIETY LOGO)
Please tell us about your role?
As the University Chaplain I head up a team of nine from across all the denominations from Orthodox and Roman Catholic to all the main Free Churches. ...Hard to describe my whole job, but I manage the Chaplaincy Centre, that is well used by all the Christian Societies - Bath Anglican Society (BANG!), Catholic Society, Christian Union and two different Chinese Christian Fellowships. The Jewish Society occasionally book the chaplaincy for ed. A Shabbat meal. Diwali will be celebrated here this week.
We have an open door policy, so every week day students can come and be assured of a warm welcome, advice, a shoulder to cry on etc etc.
We have weekly services - Mass, Eucharist, Orthodox Jesus Prayer. We put on lectures, an annual Three Abrahamic Faiths Forum.
We have lots of hospitality events as well as an annual pilgrimage to Iona. We put on events for international students like a Chinese Tea Party - I did a months sabbatical in China four years ago to better understand the needs of our Chinese students - a Guided tour of Bath Abbey plus tea, a Guided Tour of Wells Cathedral (where I am a Prebendary). The latter two are specifically for international students.
We run a weekly Oxfam lunch for both staff and students, help homesick students and students with a whole variety of problems and in fact we are part of Student Services.
I am one of the first to be contacted following a death on campus and we are here for staff as well as students.
How did you come to take this role?
The job was advertised, I applied and was shortlisted, interviewed along with several other candidates, and then offered the job.
It is my third time as an Higher Education Chaplain. I have also been a rural Rector in two parishes in the Bristol Diocese for nine years, near Bath at Colerne and North Wraxall
Please tell us about caring for foreign students; you mentioned that you have 2000 Chinese here alone! What does this involve?
Being there for them, answering questions and being an easily accessible presence. There is usually a two week waiting list for counselling, and this is accessed online.
When someone has just heard of a death in the family or has just split up with their partner, they don't want to wait for two weeks to talk to someone.
Many overseas students have problems settling into British culture, and don't always understand our social norms, so we can give a helping hand with that.
What are the most common issues and needs facing students away from their home country?
Adjusting to a different culture - issues of culture shock, especially weather and food. The drink culture of British students is alien to many from other cultures, even within Europe.
Learning skills - we have a very different method of teaching to e.g in China where to quote from a well known teacher is expected - whereas here plagiarism is a complete no no - but there is no such word as plagiarism in the Chinese language.
In China students live in Dorms with their tutors - here they see them twice a semester.
Why is it so important that your chaplaincy cares for them?
We are not the only people who care. There is a very good international student Advisor team, and Student Services.
However we regard it as part of our mission to care for the stranger and outsider.
Do you find a lot of them have questions about God, and Christianity?
Yes definitely, and a real thirst to learn, especially from many Chinese students.
Are you able to help them with practical stuff too? - for instance housing, benefits?
We can point people in the right direction. All the different branches of students services work closely together - e.g Accomodation, Security, Counselling, Disability Advice, Money Services, the Student Union Representation and Advice dept; Medical Centre etc etc and ofcourse the International Advisors.
What should we as a Christian community be offering these students away from their home country?
Hospitality and friendship. A chance to practise their English.
Find out more about BANG!
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