A Christian Union is a group of students who regularly meet in their place of study. They usually aren't part of any external organisation. The students may invite a guest speaker from a local church occasionally but it tends to be student run.
For those with a Christian faith it is a place to be encouraged in their relationship with God by coming together with others.
For people who aren't Christians, or aren't sure, it is a place to find out what Christianity is about in an informal setting. It may be less intimidating than going to church if your experience/idea of church is very traditional. You can meet people your own age and discover what they have found in Christianity. And make your own mind up by seeing for yourself.
I attended a Christian Union in Secondary school. It varied across the years as different people led it from a place where a lot of younger students came for free food and friendship to a place where I discussed struggling with believing in God's goodness because of personal pain with people who listened and cared and helped.
It was always a positive place, even if sometimes I didn't leave my normal group of friends at lunch to attend. I realised that for some students it was somewhere that accepted them and listened to them and made them feel valued, and that is why they went every week. To me this is a beautiful illustration of when Jesus said that when Christians love people like they should the world will see what God is like.
I am now part of a team leading a CU at a Sixth Form College. Last year I wasn't even a regular attender of the main meetings but I did go to cell groups. And there I found the realest friends I've made at college. They were honest about their struggles and I could be too. Our friendships were based on Grace: The understanding that all of us fall short of who we should be and what we should do. Standing before a perfect God with no excuse for our failure. But because of His great love He has shown us mercy by sending His Son to take our rightful punishment so that, if we trust in what He's done, admitting that our own efforts are useless, we can be saved.
So, because of that, there weren't expectations I had to meet, or a standard of 'good enough'; they knew they weren't good enough and didn't need me to be before extending the same kindness they received from God.
I would always come out of cell feeling stronger and more hopeful than I went in.
The main meetings, from the ones I did attend, were also good. I just found it harder to make strong friendships there because it was a bigger group.
I some CUs run Alpha courses. These are something I really recommend. I went on one last year with a strongly atheist friend who wanted to go for the debates. He was listened to and his questions taken seriously. In the videos he was presented with a clear explanation of what Christians believe and the evidence for it, as well as stories of people whose lives have been changed by God. The conversations afterwards on our table were open and productive. By the end of the course we all knew each other well and everyone had come to a conclusion. My friend was still an atheist, but he better understood the message of Christianity and knew clearly why he didn't believe it.
Other activities run by CUs:
-Bible studies: Reading a part of the Bible together and discussing it. What better way to see what the Christian God is really about than reading his own words?
-Talks by students or a guest speaker.
-Games and free food (very often)
-Grill a Christian: an event where people are invited to ask a panel of Christians questions about faith.
-Cell groups: smaller groups that meet outside of the main meeting time (e.g. in free periods) to make friends and get to know God together.
-Alpha course: a weekly video course based around a meal and discussion.
-And many others.
A Third Culture Kid is someone who has spent a significant part of their developmental years living in a country other than their parents' country of origin.
Examples are immigrants, military kids, business kids (if they lived overseas for work), missionary kids, etc.
I grew up in Asia from 3 months old to 12 years old and have lived in the UK since then so I am a Third Culture Kid. It is a label I have found very helpful to understanding myself.
Why is this worth talking about?
TCKs have a lot in common with each other and often don't feel fully understood by non TCKs.
The first two cultures of a TCK are their parents' and that of their host country. They are able to navigate both often with great fluency but cannot completely identify with either.
The "Third" culture, which they are named after, is the shared culture of TCKs. TCKs who meet, say, only for a week long camp, will almost without exception bond very quickly over shared characteristics and experiences, even though they may have no country in common. This has certainly been my experience and research has also found it to be true.
What do they have in common?
TCKs have often experienced a lot of transition throughout their lives. For example, I have been to 6 schools as well as homeschooling in my life. For some TCKs this means they find it hard to really commit to relationships with people and settle in to a place because they have a constant fear that it will be torn away from them. This is a way of coping with the memory of painful and sudden moves that were out of their control as a child.
In my case, I don't allow myself to get attached to houses. After leaving the home I had age 6-12 we moved once every one to two years. I remember consciously deciding not to regard it as home. I refused to use the word home and thought of it as a temporary thing of use that I could discard as I wished. I kept a bag under my bed at all times with a camping stove and enough food for three days. It made me feel in control. Knowing I could leave the house at any time without looking back reassured me that there wasn't an attachment to it which could at any moment be ripped from me and hurt like it had hurt to move before.
There seems little harm in treating houses like that, a house doesn't care if I miss it. But I have to be wary of treating people like that. It is very easy, after having to leave all your best friends on the other side of the world, to prevent future pain by not making really close friends again.
For me though, friendships have proven worth that risk.
There are also positives gained from experiencing so much transition. TCKs tend to be very quick to adapt. Having to learn all the social rules that local people obey subconsciously purely by observation and getting it wrong gives TCKs cross cultural skills that are useful in business and travel.
For me, I am very quick to make deep friendships. I know that time is short and don't want to waste any of it on small talk.
TCKs are often more aware of world affairs than their peers in home countries. What their friends may have heard in distant news is to them a very present reality.
For me, moving from somewhere with very visible poverty to the UK where the standard of living is much higher, it was a big shock. I knew kids who had only one or two sets of clothes and people who went through the bins in the market to find vegetables that were still edible. It made me furious to learn that people here consider clothes shopping a hobby, buying because they're bored of their old clothes. Even issues of environment and child labour aside, it is such a unnecessary luxury.
It has taken me some time to learn to tame my emotional reaction to immediately judge them and instead gently explain the realities which have given me my perspective on money. Usually the problem is not a lack of compassion. They just haven't really understood poverty and what they can do to help.
-If you're a TCK: Read. "Third Culture Kids : Growing Up Between Worlds" by David C Pollock and Ruth Van Renken. I promise this is not sponsored. When I read the book I couldn't believe how much each page described me and helped me realise what coping mechanisms I have. It helped me understand why I am the way I am much better. And the author doesn't know me, they have just studied a lot of people like me. So I highly highly recommend reading it. I'm sure you'll find it on eBay cheap.
-If you know TCKs: hopefully this article has helped you understand them a bit more. Explain social norms (like what gifts people give on certain occasions) and let them know they can ask anything and you won't embarrass them. I am so grateful to friends that did this for me when I first moved. And friends who asked me about where I lived and listened to my stories of it. They made me feel like I belonged. And that is a very precious thing.
I have worked part-time tutoring friends on the lead up to exams and marking books in a study centre as well as cleaning or doing an extra paid chore for my parents. Most recently I have worked for three months at a theme park painting children's faces. They have been rewarding although they come with challenges.
Looks good on a CV
I think people make a bigger deal of this than it is. Teachers put so much pressure on us to have dazzling CVs. In reality, I'm unlikely to mention anything I've done this early on in a Personal Statement unless it's really relevant to what I'm applying for. In lower school, I did a huge number of extracurricular activities with this motive. But I've not mentioned most of them in any applications.
Don't just apply for the first job you see. Think outside the box for what you could do. Babysitting can pay well. What contacts do you have? Does anyone want gardening, dog walking or childcare? What are your skills?
Try to find work that you will enjoy as much as possible. If you speak another language there are apps online that can pay you to teach people it. Could you make things to sell on Etsy or something similar? Be aware that if you are trying to start a business rather than working for one the financial risks are much higher.
Look at your weekly schedule and think realistically about how much time you would work. I made the mistake of booking in work without considering study time or my need for rest. You need to rest. It isn't healthy to work too hard. I'm still trying to tell myself this.
I looked at my calculator with the monthly sum I would make and figured I could work full Saturday's and almost full time in holidays, ignoring the school work that needed to be done. I told myself I would get up early and do it before I caught the bus. I thought I could see friends in the evening sometimes. In reality, I barely ever got more than 20 minutes of work done in the morning and as soon as I got home I fell onto my bed and only got up for dinner.
Consider how far away a job is from your house. Will you have to pay for transport there? How long will it take? This may be different on different days of the week. It should be factored into your decisions.
Then, apply for the jobs you want. You will get rejected time and time again unless you're very lucky. I got rejected from the low-end supermarket near me and joked that in the future when I'm a CEO (which I have no plans of being) I can give inspirational speeches about the failure being the first step to success or something. It was a bad start. I then got rejected from a hospital. Probably because at the interview I basically said I wanted to work there for the money and nothing else. Interview tips are for another article, not one I'm qualified to write. Eventually, I got this job at the theme park and took it even with the low wage and travel time. Keep filling out those annoying online forms and eventually, it will pay off. If you copy and paste what you write in them to another document you can reuse it for similar parts of another question.
All the best!
I met with some climate activists and listened to a discussion between them and others in the open forum. It was eye-opening and encouraging to me that they were also just normal folk like me who had realised what is happening and want to do something.
There were members of Extinction Rebellion, Christian Climate Action and the Climate Network.
As a student, I was worried that in order to buy ethically I would need to spend more money.
A Uni student there said, “I’m vegan and my friends say they wouldn’t be able to do it because it’s expensive but I used to spend £60 a week on food and now spend only £45. I go to the farmers market and buy pulses and put them in jars. It’s saved me money.”
What you can do:
That said, individual lifestyle change, although important, is not enough to stop the climate emergency. Large corporations must change, and we can influence them by using our money to show them what matters. Governments and their policy must also change. Let's use our votes - or for those who can't vote yet, let's protest.
I first heard of the climate change school strikes from my grandad, one of the ‘make love not war’ rebels of his generation. He said it looks like the young people will be the ones to change things. He has plenty of doubt in corrupt governments and powerful corporations but he has hope in us.
This seemed too good to be true so I did research. And sure enough, there was a real story of inspiration.
An unknown Swedish teenager had taken the facts of climate change to heart--they were bad enough to be a cause of her depression--but it didn’t stop there. She couldn’t deny it like so many of us do and took to sitting outside the Swedish Parliament every Friday. Her protests went viral and gradually people joined her. That was August 2018 and she was only 15 years old. Now Greta Thunberg has spoken at the UN Climate Change Summit, to the European Parliament and the UK Parliament. Her movement “School Strikes for Climate” and “Extinction Rebellion” have tens of thousands of people protesting across the UK and by March they had protests in over 2000 cities worldwide. They use nonviolent civil protest, marches, die-ins, and more creative methods like gluing themselves to things or stripping in Parliament, similar to the civil rights movement in America or the Suffragettes. The media headlines read “Protests Delay Commuters” when the real news is “CO2 Levels Threaten Humanity."
Some progress has been made, though, with the UK government declaring a Climate Emergency and gaining the issue more of the attention it deserves. The Guardian has changed the terminology they use from “Climate Change” to “Climate Emergency” or “Climate Crisis” to reflect the reality of the situation. This is a good start but a lot more needs to happen quickly.
So what are the facts?
At the end of 2018 the UN General Secretary warned that human life on earth now faces a “direct existential threat." Sea ice is disappearing and natural disasters are increasing in intensity and occurence. “On land the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making rice crops less nutritious, threatening the well-being and food security for billions of people.” The full speech is well worth reading, and the link is at the bottom of the page.
Or if not us in the wealthy west, millions of people in poverty who are disproportionately affected by it will. They are already paying a huge death toll with the increase in floods, drought, famine, wildfires, and war.
The earth is not a plastic cup: we can’t take what we need and throw it away. We need to treat it like a quality piece of clothing handed down from our grandparents. It’s a precious heritage which needs care when using and patching up in places. Not like an item of fast fashion, here today to make us feel good and disposed of tomorrow.
The choices we make as individuals affect the environment. We should recycle and not buy more than we need. We should use our money as consumers to show companies that the environment is important to us. We should use public transport or walk whenever possible. We should reduce meat consumption.
But this isn’t enough. We are literally facing threat to our existence as a species. We need large scale political action.
I didn’t know it was this serious until now.
I don’t know what to do. It’s terrifying.
But it’s real. Truth is better than false hope.
I’ll write again when I know how to make radical change.
Full UN report
Easy to read summary:
Get involved in protests:
Imagine leaving all your friends and relatives and moving with your family to foreign country where your inability to perform basic functions, like reading a menu in a restaurant, is a constant reminder of how different everything is. This is the overwhelming reality of many children emigrating to the UK/US, often exacerbated by being thrust straight into school. Learning a new culture, perhaps including English, cannot be accomplished without asking countless questions, ranging from the translation of colloquial expressions to appropriate gifts for birthdays and Christmas. These arrivals need people who will answer their questions or simply extend kindness, and this article strives to equip readers to begin to do so.
I joined an English Secondary School. The first day was terrifying. I didn't know anyone. The teacher told a bubbly extrovert to be my buddy but I couldn't understand half of what she said, she spoke so fast. I just smiled and nodded. Our timetables were in some strange code which everyone else understood. Someone patiently explained that the numbers meant classrooms and the letters stood for subjects and teachers’ initials. Meanwhile someone else had stolen my planner and I found it later in a sink completely soaked. My buddy and her group of friends helped me dry it off and quickly adopted me under their care. One of them was in my classes, she took me to the right rooms and waited for me afterwards. Those little acts of kindness made me feel like I could belong here. There was a lot to learn and matching names to faces was difficult. I learnt new words and soon discovered urban dictionary, not before they'd laughed at my accidental innuendos many times.
● Start conversations or just smile and offer to help them find their way around or help explain something.
● Don't be afraid to ask about their country and customs. Show an interest and try to learn about their culture. But remember they are more than just a culture, find out what makes them tick and what you have in common.
● Be patient with their mistakes and questions. They might get frustrated at themselves
● If they don't speak English talk slowly and clearly using simple words. Apps like Google translate can help but sometimes they make mistakes. Try to figure out what level they are and don't patronise if they do speak English.
● As you become friends invite them out or to your house. Their parents may also be struggling to make friends, especially if one of them is at home without a job. If your family is up for it, you can get your parents to make friends with theirs. A lot of people who have newly emigrated to the UK don't get invited to homes very much and this can really make them feel welcome.
In summary, be friendly and helpful and you might just make their transition that little bit easier. The kindness of those new friends on my first day made worlds of difference and left me feeling like I could enjoy my new school. The fact that you've taken the time to read this article suggests that you're just the kind of caring friend they need.