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Halloween: Why I won’t be celebrating

First things first, I feel I should point you to this video, as Glen Scrivener puts a poetic twist on the reasons for Halloween and a great Christian perspective.

The big thing that really gets me about Halloween is the way that it is suddenly OK for children to knock on strangers’ doors asking for sweets. Not only that, but dressed sometimes in massively inappropriate costumes – I distinctly remember seeing a Hannibal Lecter mask in British Bookshops Sussex Stationers alongside all the other Halloween paraphernalia. And then you have the oversexualised costume sported by teenagers at various Halloween parties, inspired particularly by Mean Girls. I don’t have a problem with people who dress in that way, but it is a different matter when they are justifying their clothing choices because ‘it’s Halloween’, especially because that then creates pressure for all the other girls. (as I’m writing this I am VERY conscious about my audience and the fact that my good friends may well be doing the exact thing that I am describing – however my MAIN issue is with those under 18s who do this and think that it’s completely normal – IT’S NOT VERY EASY TO PUT INTO WORDS, says the girl with a blog)

At home there is a family next door but one who always have a big Halloween party, I am very used to the celebration of Halloween. But what’s even more unnerving is how it’s changed from a superstitious ritual to protect us from evil spirits (with some very disturbing customs associated with this, which I don’t know enough about to go into) to a massive, supposedly national, festival permeating popular culture, shops and the media. I bought something from the campus shop earlier and was served by someone wearing a ghost headband; I almost walked back down to Tesco instead.

But if you all want to celebrate Halloween that’s fine! I understand that I am the minority and that the response ‘I don’t celebrate Halloween’ is not heard often in today’s world. However, think about what you are celebrating, where it came from, and why you don’t just treat it like any other night. Instead of going to a Halloween party or down to the SU dressed as a sexy vampire or something, I will be heading to see a student production of Almost, Maine and then actually going down to the SU in a different capacity to once again help with Club Mission (so come and say hello!)

And for another Christian perspective much better than mine see: http://witchalls.co.uk/content/blog/reject-receive-redeem/

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Christianity at University Part 2: CU

SO, I have come on to part 2 of my blog posts on being a Christian at university. Today’s post (in case you didn’t read the title) is on Christian Union and associated events. I’ll try not to make it as long as the previous post!

The first thing I will say is that you should definitely go along to the first Christian Union meeting (and all the subsequent ones as well…). For a start they have free food (and if they don’t you should certainly go and get them to change that!), and the people are really nice. You get great bible teaching on your doorstep and hopefully an introduction to some local churches, which should make the church choice I talked about last time a bit easier! I found it was quite chilled, we could chat, and then there was a talk and worship, which is great at all times, but particularly during freshers’ week when all is a bit manic!

As well as CU meetings, any good CU will be doing LOADS outside of that as well. We have prayer two mornings a week – haven’t quite made it to that yet, but I did go on a prayer walk last Friday to the lovely Virginia Water, and it was really great to see some of God’s amazing creation and pray. They also organised ‘Dinner with Friends’ last week, where groups of us went to other students’ houses and had a free meal (and also games and a film, but I can’t guarantee that happened everywhere!).

However, one of the best things that the CU does is Club Mission (and anyone who knows me will know about this because I have been talking about it ALL week). As you may know, universities can be a little bit of a drinking hub, particularly on a Friday night and particularly at the Student Union (although this may be more of a Holloway specific thing because there’s nowhere else to go). So, to help out those who are slightly worse for wear, we stand outside the SU handing out free water, doughnuts and crisps. Everyone who comes up to us is really grateful and it hopefully helps them sober up a little bit! It’s a great way to share God’s love and it’s quite fun walking round campus at 2 in the morning on a prayer walk.

On the subject of free donuts, there is also Dial-a-donut TONIGHT from 9pm – information on the poster below.

Dial a Donut TONIGHT
Dial a Donut TONIGHT

And please, contact me with any experiences to contribute to a later post in this ‘series’ – you know you want to…

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Research from Royal Holloway into treatment for Spinal Cord Injury

I know that this is not scoliosis related, but I came across some news today from my university about their research into treatment for Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). I had never even heard of this before, so in the spirit of raising awareness, I thought I would share the article:

https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/newsarticles/royalhollowaytodeveloppioneeringtreatmentforspinalcordinjury.aspx

It’s amazing how pioneering research is going on just around the corner from me!

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Christianity and University Part 1: Church

So, this is a post that I have been meaning to write for a while but haven’t really got round to doing! Finally, I have made a start though! Now, as the title suggests, I want to talk about being at university AND being a Christian, and how combining the two can be a challenge. I’ve only been at university 5 weeks, so I cannot pertain to be an expert on this, but here’s my take on it. As I’ve been writing this, I have realised that this post will be very long if I wrote about everything I wanted to so it’ll be split into a number of parts (and I would love to hear other experiences from Christians at university please!!) and as the title suggests, today’s post is about church!

I would really recommend going to church at the earliest opportunity. I moved in on Saturday 20th, and then my morning activity for the Sunday was going down to St John’s Egham for their morning service. I picked up a free tea (which I spat out all over the floor when I reached the bottom – great first impression!), and then got a lift down to the student worker’s house for a free bacon sandwich before walking down to the church. It was quite a weird experience for me – I have been at my home church (Holy Cross Hove) all my life, and the only time I go anywhere else is when we go and visit friends. I initially found it very weird that there wasn’t a service sheet so that unnerved me as I didn’t know what was going on. Starting with three songs was also a little weird for me but not necessarily a bad thing – it’s just more worship! It was also very liturgy driven, which I think was partially due to it being a communion service, and much of what I know of liturgy comes from Catholic Mass at school. The sermon was really good and the people were lovely. I feel like I isolated myself by not staying for coffee and that probably would have made it feel less weird. But I left feeling unsure about whether I would return.

I feel like my experience and feelings about St John’s after that first service were really down to culture shock – it is very unlikely that you will find a church exactly like your home church at university, particularly because church is about people! And it was the people at St John’s that influenced me to stay. Initially I had planned to go to Christ Church Virginia Water the following week, but the Saturday evening/Sunday morning ended up involving a grand total of 5 hours sleep due to a flatmate’s party going on until around 4. This didn’t fill me with confidence to try a new church so I stuck to the relative familiarity of St John’s. And this second week completely changed my view – for a start I was aware of the structure and style of the service (not all that different really from at home) and I knew a few people as well. Add to that a student lunch and I felt far more at home! The Student Life Group on a Tuesday evening was also really encouraging and great fun.

However, I still had a nagging feeling that I may not have chosen the right church. But then trying out Christ Church would mean having to miss the service at St John’s and that wasn’t something I wanted to do either! But then doing Chamber Orchestra (see my previous post) meant that missed church last Sunday morning – the solution to doing both church and rehearsals was going to the evening service at Christ Church! “But why didn’t you just go to the morning service at St John’s and then the evening service at Christ Church weeks ago?” is a question that I have tried to answer for about 10 minutes so far, and I am no closer to giving an answer, but that’s a really small point in the grand scheme of this post (and if you do want an answer, please comment or contact me directly). Anyway, I went to Christ Church, people were also very nice and they had free pizza afterwards. The style of service was pretty similar to at home and St John’s. The sermon was good. But I didn’t feel at home. And I know that was how I felt on my first week at St John’s too, but it wasn’t the same feeling. Maybe it was because it was dark outside and I’m not used to evening services, but I am really looking forward to returning to St John’s next week now!

And how did I choose where to go in the first place? Well, someone at church’s sister went to Royal Holloway and was at St John’s, and a friend from Bible by the Beach in second year goes to Christ Church, so I relied very much on church recommendations. There was also a video made by each local church and shown by the CU at their first meeting, which gave me more of an insight into what different churches were like. AND there is also a website/app called Student Link Up, where you enter your university and churches will message you with details of their services and student events. AND if you aren’t lucky enough to already know anyone associated with your university, UCCF have a Link Up service to connect you with someone at the CU at your university, and they will be able to contact you about churches.

I NOW PLEA TO ANY CHRISTIANS AT UNIVERSITY ANYWHERE OR EVEN GRADUATES – I WANT TO KNOW YOUR EXPERIENCES! PLEASE COMMENT, CONTACT ME THROUGH MY ABOUT PAGE, OR CONTACT ME DIRECTLY IF YOU HAPPEN TO KNOW ME!

Next time will be about CU so stay tuned for that!

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Making Music at Royal Holloway

So, as you all know, I am now at university. The whole thought of this still freaks me out a bit, and I cannot believe that I am actually old enough to be here! But, anyway, I wanted to write a little bit on doing musical things here.

Firstly, I am not a music student, I play music for leisure not for work. However, this does not mean that I don’t enjoy it, and I was very excited to not only get into the Symphony Orchestra but also the Chamber Orchestra. Even more excitingly, I made it into the first violins in Chamber, and this is the ensemble I am to focus on in this post.

Anyway, over the weekend we had an intensive rehearsal schedule to prepare for the upcoming Chamber Orchestra concert. It was 13 hours across three days, and after it was all finished, my back was very unhappy! Despite this, it was actually a really fun weekend and I enjoyed playing so much. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy playing in the orchestras back at home, but something about Chamber Orchestra made me enjoy it more. Maybe it was being in first violins or because the music was particularly good (and I can play it) or because I was playing alongside some amazing people who do music as a degree. I definitely recommended getting involved in orchestras at university – I didn’t believe I would get in but I did and really love playing each week in Symphony and intensively in Chamber.

I will finish this post with a BIG plug for the Chamber Orchestra concert on Wednesday (tomorrow!) – it’s at 7:30 in the Boiler House Auditorium and free for students at Royal Holloway. See you all there (although I understand that most of my readership are probably not students or in the area)! Oh, and my back is recovering slowly from all that playing!

Come to the Chamber Orchestra concert tomorrow!!

Come to the Chamber Orchestra concert tomorrow!!

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Starting University: My tips for the first week

I’ve been planning to write this post for so long (at least 2 weeks) but as I made progress on it in the past few days, WordPress has decided to delete all evidence, so here’s me, starting again!

I moved to Royal Holloway (in Egham but part of the University of London) on 20th September 2014, and am living in a flat with 7 others. And so as not to bore you, here I present: My tips for Freshers/Welcome Week!

1. Don’t worry about how you introduce yourself: I introduced myself to my flatmate Elodie (after exchanging names) by saying “That will be confusing” (initially because we both have El… names, but also because I also have a friend called EloISE). She remembers that. I also got flustered when George asked if I could cook (answer is yes, at least compared to what he cooks)

2. Take the free stuff: There is so much free food on campus, so just take as much as possible – the first night included a free meal at which you got two pots of pasta/Chinese/curry/stir fry; I took both pots because I could have some cold, someone else took the carton of juice. There’s lots of free chocolate and pens at Freshers Fayre too…

3. Go to Freshers Fair: Firstly, there was a voucher for free Dominos. Secondly, there’s bound to be something you want to sign up to, and even if there isn’t, then there’s the fun of signing up for things and then getting emails all year for something you only signed up to for the free pen/chocolate/peer pressure.

4. Don’t get (too) drunk: I can’t say don’t get drunk, because people do, although personally I haven’t. Yes, drinking can create great stories (my next door neighbour was so out of it that he couldn’t unlock his door!) but it also creates mess, sickness and possibly missing important lectures/induction.

5. Go out with people similar to yourself: I went out once during Freshers Week, supposedly to see Scouting for Girls. Basically there was a long wait to get into the main hall, then a fire alarm, then over an hour’s wait before they even started (11:30pm). Me and Beanie decided that we would just go home, as drinking is not our thing. Also, don’t walk home alone in the dark.

6. Talk to people: I went to the supermarket on the second day just because there were people going. I didn’t even buy anything, but we tried to guess things about each other (surprisingly accurate about me, not so much about the others…) Talk to people in your induction lectures and stuff too – it’s nice to see a familiar face when work starts.

7. Enjoy not having work: The idea of Freshers is to ease you into university life. You have no work or commitments. Make the most of it. I now have reading and notes to do. And I am enjoying it, but I don’t have the same chance to do absolutely nothing as I did in the first week.

8. (Optional) Change your name: At university almost everyone calls me Beth. No-one called me Beth before but I like it. It’s also much easier when you’re doing mixers at subject socials, as it’s so much easier to say Beth than Elizabeth (not that I don’t like Elizabeth). However, it can get confusing when interacting with people from home.

OK, so that’s my Welcome Week post finally done! Hooray!! It’s been through drafts and redrafts, but here’s some form of account of my first days at university! And only two weeks late! Stay tuned for more insights on university life!! Oh, also do comment if you want any specifics, especially as I haven’t posted anything about the emotional/anxiety side of the whole move to university.

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Why Give Blood?

I promise that I will post about starting university soon, but today I want to write briefly on the issue of giving blood. I personally cannot give blood, and should I have been able to, I cannot tell you whether I would have the courage to actually give blood, due to Trypanophobia. However, I would hope that the reasons I will outline below would persuade me to face my fears!

OK, so you probably won’t know that I received 2 blood transfusions at just a few days old. They were only about one tablespoon each but it still meant that 2 separate people potentially saved my  life. As a premature baby I could not produce my own blood, so my transfusions were there to replace the blood that they had taken from me to check I was OK. Despite this maybe not being a life threatening reason for me receiving blood, it was enough to make my oxygen levels increase and improve my general overall health. For my mum, a blood transfusion was literally life saving. She, I believe, received 11 units of blood, meaning that 11 people gave blood to save her life. For context, the human body contains 10 pints of blood, so my mum received more than a whole body’s worth of blood.

In addition to this, blood banks mean that operations like mine can be more safely undertaken – if there hadn’t been stocks of blood for me, they probably wouldn’t have operated unless it was life threatening.

The local newspaper did two features on blood donation, and I am featured in these, so the links are below:

http://www.theargus.co.uk/archive/2001/05/08/6780622.Give_blood_to_save_lives/?ref=arc

http://www.theargus.co.uk/archive/2000/03/20/5164005.Women_who_thought_they_would_never_be_mothers/?ref=arc

BASICALLY GIVING BLOOD SAVES ORDINARY LIVES LIKE ME. So if you’re on campus today, go to the SU, give blood, and also get some free food!!