Celebrating Christmas at the student church
As of 2019, Radboud is home university to more than 2,400 international students from all over the world. Not including 900 incoming exchange students who ought to call Nijmegen at least a temporary home for a semester or two. Not all of them get to go home for Christmas, and the student church wants to help out.
’Loneliness among students, especially international students, is not a new issue for the student church.’, says student pastor John Hacking. The focal point of the issue loneliness, however, has become much more pronounced throughout the past years. And with 2019 now coming to an end and one last week of family-bound celebrations approaching, it could strike a nerve with Dutch and international students who can’t go home for the holidays.
’Christmas has this romantic connotation.’, says Hacking, ’A time of the year that is expected to be cozy and ‘gezellig’.’ This expectation is, however, not always met — especially for students studying far away from home. ’Being alone during the holidays can worsen the feeling of loneliness.’, according to Hacking, ’What we do is give a possibility to not be alone during this time of the year.’
More than small talk
What Hacking is referring to are two events organised by students from CSN, Meet and Eat, Unique Studenten and members of the student church, on the 25th and 26th of December. The programme, which celebrated its initiation during the 2018 Christmas holidays, has a deliberately simple concept. Both days include a free lunch and dinner, the possibility of getting together with other students after both of the two meals and an additional English Mass on the 25th. According to the organisers, this hits exactly the right tone for the holiday season.
‘The students are the real organizers’
’When people are given a space to get together for a larger amount of time from lunch onwards, you offer them space for conversations that go beyond small talk.’, says Hacking, ’The people who attended the celebrations at the student church last year had a great time, we got a very positive response.’
Events like these, which are specifically targeting the issue of loneliness, are living and dying with the involvement of students groups, according to the pastor: ’I merely help to smoothen the way by taking care of bureaucratic obstacles, but the students are the real organisers.’
The events themselves are, according to Hacking, open to everyone associated with both Radboud or HAN — from Bachelor and Master students, to PhD candidates and employees.