Danielle Zabielski is a Communications student at Saint Joseph’s University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of Melbourne in Australia in 2016. She is an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the Work-To-Study Program.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: going abroad can be tough. It’s often exhausting mentally, physically, and emotionally, especially in the first few weeks. Sometimes wonderful moments are quickly followed by deep pangs of homesickness, putting your heart on a rollercoaster ride it never bargained for. All these twists and turns can leave you longing for a stable place of support.
Thankfully, a place like that isn’t hard to find at the University of Melbourne. UniMelb is home to a great deal of student-run faith communities who will gladly welcome you into their prayer or discussion, giving you a safe space to express your views.
A Variety of Views
As of right now, there are 16 groups on campus dedicated to faith or
spirituality, and more are forming all the time. Religions currently represented include Adventism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Evangelical Christianity. There’s also a whole host of other Christian groups, including some specifically for Cantonese, Indonesian, and Korean students which hold services in their native languages.
Most of these groups meet at least weekly, either to hold religious services or to discuss their faiths in a forum setting. These communities also commonly organize social functions, often serving as fundraisers for local charities or places of worship. These can be anything from community service projects to dinner parties, or even weekend road trips. Attending events like these is a fantastic way to meet likeminded students who’ll help you stay grounded amidst the craziness of uni life. Plus, sharing your faith with others will give you strength as well.
Open to Everybody
Whatever faith you practice—or don’t practice—the University of Melbourne has a community that will provide you with the guidance you need.
If you don’t necessarily consider yourself “spiritual” but are still interested in engaging with different religions, you’re still very much welcome in these communities. UniMelb’s faith groups are wonderfully accepting environments—much like the school itself! They’re open to sharing their beliefs and practices with anyone who’s willing to respectfully learn. To sum it up, check out what one of the groups, Students for Christ, has to say: “We provide a place where students can be supported, encouraged, meet new people, learn more about God, and impact their campus in fun and exciting ways! Students For Christ is not just for Christians.”
Or, if that isn’t really your scene either, UniMelb also has a Secular Society dedicated to examining religious views through a scientific lens. Even without the faith-sharing aspect, this group still supplies support to “freethinkers, skeptics, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and all others.”
Whatever faith you practice—or don’t practice—the University of Melbourne has a community that will provide you with the guidance you need. Knowing that you’re supported by a group can raise your confidence immensely, and that is much needed during the more uncertain periods of your abroad experience. Being involved with one of these faith communities might not stop your emotional rollercoaster, but at least it’ll give you a seatbelt!