One of the best things about Brunel is the range of extra-curricular opportunities available to students. I found out about the Global Faith Awareness course earlier this year and I had to sign up.
As someone who plans on building a career in Psychology, working with people, this course is a great way to learn about other people’s faiths and “nurture mutual understanding and respect”.*
The course runs every year and takes place once a week, in the Meeting House on campus, over an 8-week period. Each session is just one hour, and there’s the opportunity to ask questions and interact with other like-minded students. You meet a different speaker from each of the world’s major faiths each week and learn about the main features of their faith and what it means for them. You are also given a handout consisting of all the major points covered.
The course was developed and lead by Rev Sally Hitchiner and has been so ground-breaking that it’s been modelled by other universities such as UCL and Imperial, and was highlighted by The Association of Commonwealth Universities. The course is totally FREE and you get awarded a certificate at the end of it. This is a great achievement to put on your CV as it shows employers that you have taken the initiative to gain an understanding of how different people see the world. This is particularly relevant at a university like Brunel where we have so many international students and staff.
The religions I learned about during this years' course were Protestant Christianity (including Anglican, Reformed and Pentecostalism), Catholicism, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. I already had a good understanding of some of these religions but I still learned something new and interesting about all of them.
The course helps to break down barriers that often separate us from each other. For example, we learned about appropriate greetings in different cultures, cultural norms that often accompany different religions and things that you should and shouldn't say or do when addressing people from different faiths. At the end of each session we got to try different foods brought in by the speakers, prepared in a way that is in keeping with their culture and faith. We tried everything from savory snacks to sweet desserts.
I noticed that what we learned opened a door for conversation between the students and staff who came from all different religions and no religion and a range of different academic courses, from History and Law to Psychology and Sports Science. I personally think this kind of experience would be great for a range of careers, for example in Psychology or International Relations. Additionally, since lack of cultural sensitivity is a huge problem in Mental Healthcare in the UK, I feel that courses such as this one, are a step in the right direction for students such as myself who are interested in Clinical Psychology and Mental Health.
"All experience is preceded by the mind. Led by mind. Made by mind. Speak or act with a peaceful mind, and happiness follows like a never-departing shadow."**
* Rev Sally Hitchiner
** From the Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations translated by Gil Fronsdal, PhD