Faye Jones, Liverpool
I am a student from Liverpool just finishing my first year studying at Union Theological College. The past year has been one of the best in my life- surprisingly. At the start I was terrified to be moving to a place I didn’t know, meeting people I didn’t know and being clueless about nearly everything. But I found it so easy to make friends and relationships here that have gotten me through my homesickness. The lecturers are extremely friendly and intelligent, the people come from all over and are welcoming and the course itself I would argue it one of the best. Not only do I study here but I also live in the accommodation on the upper floors. Which after settling in has been an amazing experience and I don’t think I would have liked to have lived anywhere else for my first year. Overall, Union is an amazing place filled with amazing people and I can’t wait to carry on my studies here.
Morgan Bryn Williams, Wales
Wrth i mi ddod i Belfast, roeddwn yn dod yn ‘nabod neb. Ond oherwydd y gymdeithas sydd yma yn y Coleg, des i yn ffrindia’ da gyda llawer, o bob blwyddyn. Mae’r amser coffi yn y bore yn gyfle gwych i sgwrsio ac i ddal fyny, nid yn unig gyda myfyrwyr ond gyda staff a darlithwyr hefyd. As I came to Belfast, I knew nobody. But as the weeks went by I made friends quickly, and this was facilitated by the strong sense of community here in the College. Coffee time in the mornings are a great opportunity to chat and catch up, not only with fellow students but with members of staff and faculty as well.
Rebecca Kershaw, Liverpool
Moving 150 miles away, from Liverpool to Belfast, I knew little of what life would entail. However, I can safely say that on arrival, I knew the right decision had been made. This was not because of the warm welcome provided by the University or the University’s Trampoline Club I joined shortly after the move, but rather, it was because of the new community that I felt a part of from the moment I stepped into Union College. At Union, they welcome you with open arms, so whether in the daily ‘Coffee Time’, lectures or the Gamble Library, there is a sense of being in a home away from home – something which makes being one step further away from your hometown worthwhile.
Cameron Macintyre, Hampshire
Before I moved to Belfast I was absolutely terrified because I had never been here before and I didn’t know anyone over here. When I arrived at Union College my fears were put to rest by the warm welcome that I received from some of the students and staff. I have really enjoyed my last three years at Union because of the close-knit community of the College, the academic rigour of the modules and the general craic (fun) of Belfast.
I first came to Union as an undergraduate student, and have now returned to train for ordained ministry alongside an MTh pathway, so I probably know the College too well! I think Union finds a great balance between theory and practice. During my three undergrad years I was working part-time in a church. Regular modules, as well as the Graduate Diploma in Youth Ministry classes, gave me lots of opportunities to be equipped and challenged. That had as much relevance to how I led our youth group on a Sunday night as it did to assignments. Union doesn’t just teach gospel doctrine, it also models a gospel culture. The College community is one of its biggest strengths. A lot of our faculty are ordained ministers, which might seem daunting at first, but actually means they have a real pastoral heart. That’s most obvious at coffee time, when everyone mucks in together and they’ll chat to you over a (free!) coffee. Lecturers have helped me wrestle with theological ideas and very practical personal questions - including on my journey toward applying for ministry training - they really do care for students very personally. I’ve also been greatly helped in my personal faith. It’s such a healthy thing to reflect deeply and with academic rigour on truths we hold dear, whilst being stretched by new ideas and the broad variety of views from fellow students, whether they have a faith perspective or not. It’s not all heady theology though. Some of my year also meet every few weeks to share a meal, study the Bible and discuss together. I don’t regret a bit of my choice to study in Union, despite considering multiple options.
Pal Domokos Szekely, Hungary
I am way more than grateful to be able to study in Union Theological College and to inhale the culture of Northern Ireland with its refreshing damp air! The city of Belfast is full with remarkable places to visit, for example the Union Theological College itself or quite near to it the Botanic Gardens. During my time here I had to do many papers for my sending university as well, which I found the Gamble Library extremely helpful for. I have taken 3 modules and each satisfied my expectations and challenged me as well. Lecturers spoke clearly and were also patient and kind when I did not get something. The community in the college is great. There is coffee-time every day at 11 o’clock where everybody meets up for a chat, not to mention the weekly worship, and of course there are plenty of events and churches nearby to engage with the social culture of Belfast”.
Union was fantastic for a number of reasons. You find yourself close enough to the main Queen’s campus to experience all the benefits of the wider University, but detached enough to enjoy being a member of the Union family. There is a real community spirit among students and faculty, and you will be made very welcome regardless of your beliefs or background. I suppose for me there are three important areas to consider: teaching standards, facilities and attitudes. I found the lecturers knew their subjects in depth, were well prepared and able communicators, who were open to discussion. These guys knew their stuff and were patient in trying to illuminate the rest of us! The facilities are great and all within the one beautiful (if old) building. The Gamble Library is probably the best in Ireland. There were always free study areas and computers, if needed, and it is within the environs of Queen’s with everything to offer students. Finally, the attitude of all the staff I met was great. Caretakers, secretaries/support staff and teaching staff were always willing to help, give advice and generally looked out for you. It’s a great place to learn from others, study for yourself, socialise and chill–out.
One of the outstanding features of Union College is the combination of academic rigour, uniquely set within the context of a warm, worshipping community. The facilities on offer are truly exceptional. In particular, students are furnished with a vast array of resources via Union’s phenomenal theological library. From personal experience, students are given every opportunity and encouragement to succeed in their academic and vocational studies. Administrative staff members are always available to help students practically, while faculty constantly provide intellectual stimulus and focus. In short, it has been an immense privilege to study in such an environment. Union provided an environment in which academic study and personal faith could, and often did, contribute to and enhance one another. Wrestling with the serious questions of my faith ultimately led to the deepening of it.