Cram, binge and nodoze: maintaining healthy life balance as a student

#1

It’s 5am. You’ve stayed up all night doing your essay and you still don’t have all your footnotes organized. You have to finish in an hour because you have to cram for the two test papers you have in the afternoon. Being a uni student really has its moments.

Even as a Christian, it’s easy to get caught up in the lifestyle of constantly going hard. With study, parties and socializing it’s easy to see how late nights can become the norm in a uni students life. But failing to maintain a healthy life balance for a sustained length of time can quickly wear down your health and motivation.

Though having a Christian faith can really help you get through tough times at uni, many students find it challenging to keep a firm hold on faith and values in the university environment. If these are important to you, you will need to work on putting some habits and accountabilities in place. Putting some structure into your life can help you to get through the myriad of assessments, exams and life choices before you.

Constant all-nighters can have damaging effects on your mind and body. If you push yourself long enough there is even the risk of developing depression and other mental health issues. Socialising and having fun is an important part of life, but if you social life is keeping you out most nights of the week, it may be time to reassess and find some balance.

Make church attendance a priority. Even at the height of exams or assignment due dates. Many people cut back on their church attendance to have more time for uni work, but taking time to worship together with other believers will refresh and inspire to be more effective with the time you have. Joining a Christian group on campus will also help you to develop connections with people who can walk alongside you in your faith journey.

#2 Study and assessments can become extremely overwhelming. Typically full time students do around four subjects a semester, each with their own readings, major and minor assessments, presentations and exams. Keep track of all your assessment deadlines and schedule in start dates for all of them at the beginning of the semester. This will help you avoid leaving everything to the last minute and will give you enough time to think through your approach and research. The sooner you start working on your assessments, the less pressure you’ll feel when the deadline gets close. You may even find that you can finish your assessment a few days before it’s due, which gives you time to re-read and make final edits if needed. If you finish early enough, you could even ask your tutor or lecturer for some feedback on your assessment, which may help you to get a better mark.

Uni can be a lot of fun, but ultimately you are there to develop your skills and knowledge and to attain a qualification that will get you ahead in life. You can either survive or thrive in your time at uni, the choices you make will determine which.

Leaving Uni qualified, prepared and skilled for the marketplace.

#1 No two university courses are the same. Some offer highly practical training and compulsory work experience, while other provide strong theoretical frameworks from which to develop your experience. To succeed in the workplace after university you need a strong mix of both theory and experience.

Most university students have part time or casual jobs to support themselves while they study. Instead of just sticking your retail or menial labour job, why not start applying for part time roles in the industry that you are studying in. It may take a while to find an employee willing to take on an inexperienced undergraduate, but you can keep working your old job while you apply so there’s no harm in trying. Keep reworking your resume and approach businesses that you admire for work.

#3 Short term internships are also extremely beneficial to undergraduates. It make seem like a sacrifice, particularly with your finances dwindling due to having to cut back on work, but the experience you gain will help you immeasurably when you start looking for jobs. Look for internships over your mid year or end of year break.

If you can, join the industry body that governs the industry you want to work in. You can easily find these by searching the internet or asking your lecturers for information. These bodies will keep you updated about what’s happening in your industry and may even have regular networking events that you could attend. Don’t underestimate the power of making connections in the industry. If you can demonstrate such enthusiasm and focus as an undergraduate, it won’t be long until your snapped up by someone in your network of contacts.

Approach your studies seriously. If you have the ability to achieve high marks in your subject, you should work hard to get these. Some industry employers are very interested in you academic transcript and want to see that you are able to apply yourself. Good marks can make a great impression on a potential employer. Couple this with eagerness to enter the industry and you will have a winning combination.

Nailing that interview.

#1 After years of hard work, you are finally qualified for your career of choice! All you have to do now if get your first full time job. That’s easier said than done.

Many graduates find themselves writing dozens of resumes and going to interview after interview trying to get their foot in the door. There’s no quick way around this, particularly in competitive industries, but there are some things you can do to nail your interview, putting your best foot forward and giving you a better chance of being recruited.

First impressions

While not all professions require a crisp corporate look, recruiters will want to see that you are a serious potential employee. For guys, suit pants and an ironed white shirt with a tie and for girls, tailored pants or skirt with a elegant shirt or top are perfect for almost any industry interview. Even if you find that the recruiter is very casually dressed, it’s much better to be too formal that too casual. It goes without saying keep yourself neat and tidy. Iron your clothes, polish your shoes, keep your hair neat and avoid wearing too much make up. Focus on letting your personality and talent shine and don’t worry about trying to get the recruiter’s attention with flashy clothes.

Body Language

#3 You may feel pretty nervous walking into interviews, so be sure to keep some strong body language to help you sail through. Make sure your handshake is firm and confident and make eye contact as you introduce yourself. Sit toward the front of your seat and lean slightly forward. This will demonstrate that you are engaged and enthusiastic about the opportunity. Bring a notepad and pen to the interview to take notes. Even if you don’t write anything down, you are communicating your preparedness just by pulling these out.

Research the company
Most recruiters will start the interview with asking what you know about the company. You can really impress your prospective employer by demonstrating how much you know about their business. Visit their website and find out who their major clients are and all the services that they provide.

Have some questions prepared
Inevitably the recruiter will ask you if you have any questions. Many inexperienced people fail to prepare for this part of the interview. This is an opportunity for you to find out more about the company and the role, which will help you to decide if the com#2pany is one that you want to work for. Write down a few questions before the interview and refer to them you have the opportunity to ask them.

Be yourself

Most companies are not only looking for someone with the right qualifications and skill set, but they want someone who is going to fit in with the rest of their employees. By being yourself, you will help the recruiter to work out if you will be happy working in their work environment in the long term. Being yourself also guarantees that are recruited to a company that suits your personality and disposition.

8 study tips and techniques to get you through exam time

#1 For most people that very thought of exams is enough to get their heart racing. The thoughts that cause the most anxiety are either: “I haven’t studied enough yet!” or “I don’t remember anything I’ve studied!” Well we’ve come up with some great study tips and techniques to get you through your exams.

1. Develop helpful routines
Sporadic studying or last minute cramming is generally the result of a chaotic life where you leave everything to the last minute. This approach can be very stressful and can put you in an unhelpful state just before your exams. Instead we recommend planning your weeks leading up to an exam period. Block out the days or afternoons that you have to study each subject. Write down your study plan on a calendar to keep you on track.

2. Team up.

If you struggle with routine and structure, team up with someone whose academic ability you admire and make a time to study together at least once a week. Be careful of who you choose to team up with – it’s not time to catch up on the goss or whinge about how stressed you are. If you can find the right person, you will find that having someone sitting with you studying will keep you focused on your work for longer.

3. Be creative
Work out how you learn best and use creative techniques that work best for you. If you are a visual learner make big colourful infographs to stick on your walls. If you learn best aurally, read your notes our loud or make up some memorable songs with your notes. You could do all of these and more to keep your mind stimulated.

#2 4. Summarise text
Summarise large chunks of text from texts books or handouts rather than just copying information verbatim. Writing summaries requires you to properly understand the information in order to distill and communicate the most important information from the text.

5. Do some practice exam papers

Ask your teacher for sample papers from previous years to practice with. Sample exams will help you to see the format of the exams that you’ll be completing and they will give you the opportunity to see how quickly you need to work to complete the exam in time. Time yourself completing each exam.

6. Teach someone
One of the best ways to cement knowledge in your mind is to impart it to someone else. This could be a friend or someone in your class that may need help with their own study. If you can’t find someone appropriate in your classes, teach your parents, guardians or grandparents if you can teach them.

7. Study in 40min blocks
After about 40minutes most people find their attention starts to drift. It may be longer for you, or it may be shorter. The important thing is that when you feel like the information is not going in anymore, you should take a quick break. Make yourself a healthy snack, get a glass of water or just have a stretch. This will give you a mental break and you’ll find that you’re able to focus better when you sit back down to your notes.

8. Keeps healthy

Go for walks, swims and do lots of stretching. Eat well. Get lots of rest. We know all the shoulds and should nots, but when it’s crunch time you’ll be glad you made the effort to stay on top of things. Keeping fit and healthy will help you to avoid getting sick or fatigued during your exam time. Exercise can also help with relieving stress and anxiety, keeping you in the right mindset to power through your papers.

What employers REALLY look for (the value-add beyond your qualification)

#1 Many students jump into a university degree and expect that at the end of their three to five years of undergrad study they will emerge workplace ready and employable. While this may be true for some courses, most employers are looking for more than a qualification. As a student you need to realize that there may be a lot of competition in your industry and you may need to more than stack up Ps and Cs to break into your dream career.

Being trained in your field of interest ticks the first box for many employers, but many recruiters are looking for a set of key qualities that in people they want to hire. Here are some of the most common qualities employers look for and practical ways that you can develop and demonstrate these qualities.

Communication skills

This quality is listed on most jobs ads and is sometimes used interchangeably with the term interpersonal skills. This is because regardless of the role you take in a company you will inevitably have to work with people, be they co-workers, superiors, clients or suppliers. Having good communication skills means more than being able to talk to people. It is also the ability to connect, relate to and interactive with others in a productive and positive way. Any type of customer service work experience while you study is excellent for demonstration strong communication skills.

Work experience in the field

While on the job experience may not be a requirement for many entry-level positions, it can be an invaluable advantage in your job search. Showing that you have taken the initiative to find work experience during your studies demonstrates that you are serious about getting ahead in your industry of choice and also gives you a head start in the role that you will eventually take up. Make an effort to clock up some hours in paid or unpaid internships, casual, part time or holiday work in your field of choice. If you can’t get work experience in the role you want in your industry, consider applying for administration or assistant roles in your industry. Any exposure you get to the industry is better than no experience. If money is an concern, consider saving up for few months so that you can support yourself while you take an unpaid internship.

Ability to self manage

Employers don’t want to have to hold your hand as your navigate your way through your first few months of your new job. What employers will be looking for is someone who can organize their responsibilities without having another paid staff member having to supervise them. You can develop this quality in yourself through your existing part time job and your studies. You further develop this quality by demonstrating commitment to extra curricular activities or membership in societies or groups outside of your studies. Having some complexity or diversity in your life during your studies will show that you are able to focus on a variety of things.

#2 Ability to work in teams

This quality is another a common one as almost all companies have some kind of team dynamic in the work place. Many employers are looking for team players who have a positive attitude and are able to work with others to find solutions and achieve results. You can develop this quality through team sports or volunteer work.

Discovering And Fulfilling The Call Of God – Michael Viljoen

#1 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.
Agreed! Laban replied. … Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days. (Genesis 29:18-20)

Jacob didn’t really know what he was getting himself into. Neither do any of us when we commit ourselves to the call of God. We see visionary pictures and dreams. We are moved by stirrings in the heart. We don’t necessarily see the snags and snares hidden beneath the surface.

Perhaps it’s better that we don’t. Had Jacob known of the lies and deception awaiting him at the hands of his future father-in-law, would he have made the deal? It’s doubtful.
When my wife and I first met in Students For Christ in 1991, Melanie was studying engineering at Melbourne University. I was studying education at Monash. We went on a SFC mission trip later that year to the Philippines. Perhaps a bit romantically, I can say that we’ve been together ever since, first in preparation and then in service, in a cross-cultural setting overseas.

Like Jacob, a rare flame had been ignited in our spirits. We were sure that we were called to live outside of our home language and culture. We were idealistic enough, believing that God would make the way, but wise enough to know there were sure to be some hard miles ahead. Our ministry (Bible translation) is necessarily long term, and many things, most of which had not yet come over the horizon, would need to come into line.

When stepping out with God there are not always firm hooks to hang your hat on; no fixed term contracts, indexed salaries, or guarantees. The foremost promise for Jesus’ disciples is that he would make his presence a constant reality. And we marvel at how he scripts his drama to complete his story.

Just as Jacob initially had to work seven years for free, we also took seven years (1997-2004) of full time effort just to adequately prepare ourselves before arriving at our place of ministry. And I hate to think what would have happened if those two Melbourne city slickers, still wet behind the ears, had been dropped directly into a rural village in Cameroon.

Those seven years started with Bible college, followed by linguistic and cultural training, building team support, French language acquisition, and in-country training and internship before investigating possible project localities.

Along the way we’ve seen friends and colleagues with similar dreams and similar histories to ourselves who did not arrive at their dreamed of village – and these through circumstances far beyond their control. For example, when war breaks out in your intended country of service, forcing you to go home, this is not a reflection of your lack of faith, or lack of perseverance or anything else. It’s just part of the reality of life. And God is sovereign.

When we finally entered our village in Northern Cameroon in 2004, Buwal had no shops, no paved roads, no pipes, no electric wires, and no mobile phone signal. And in the last seven years, not much of that has changed. But, funnily, by grace, it now somehow feels like home. The village does now have a medical clinic operated by a registered nurse. And a new bridge over the river allows reliable entrance, where previously the village could be cut off from the wider world in times of heavy rain.
During these seven years of village life, in our tougher moments of sickness and isolation, we needed to be certain of our calling, knowing that God was causing everything to work together for good, for us and for those in our village. Temporal winds blow and certain plans, strategies, and directions are adjusted en route but the current of the calling runs deep.

We could never have attempted this ministry alone. That God has always sent the right people at the right time to propel us and give the needed courage and support is evidence that this is his work and not ours.

Jacob was tricked into working his second lot of seven years by his deceiving father-in-law. Did he feel cheated? No doubt. Yet he agreed to work his 14 years. Would we have agreed to our 14 years (seven pre-village and now seven serving in the village) if we knew beforehand what challenges we were to face? I cannot say.

Yet Jacob persevered, and by the time he had finished his 20 years working for Laban he was well rewarded. We too, feel we are coming to a more fruitful time where we can see our Scripture translations being produced and read in Buwal language.
I chuckle to myself when I consider whether the story of Jacob sounds a bit far fetched to our modern, Western ears. But there’s quite a lot culturally to which a Buwal person can relate. For instance, it is forbidden for a younger sister to marry before an older sister. Polygamy is common. We even have one neighbour, a young man named Gari, who through some unusual, unforeseen circumstances married two young brides in the same week.

With our team we have just finished translating the story of Joseph (i.e. the story of Jacob’s sons), with its challenges, sibling rivalries, and grain shortages (these being especially close to Buwal sensitivities.) These chapters from Genesis speak clearly of destiny and God’s sovereignty. We know this story will speak to the Buwal people, even as it speaks to us now.

So we are grateful to God for putting that flame in our hearts, and perhaps also for not showing us every twist and turn on the map before we left. We’ve experienced the pleasant surprises along with the hurdles, and would not want to be anywhere other than where God destined for us to live and minister. We are confident he will bring what he started to completion.

Michael Viljoen

Michael and Melanie Viljoen have one son, Aaron.
They work with Wycliffe Australia and SIL Cameroon.
Melanie is currently writing a doctoral thesis on Buwal grammar through
the Research Centre for Linguistic Typology and La Trobe University

How do I know which career is right for me?

#1 You did it! You survived high school and in a just few months your life in the real world is going to begin. Some of your friends have already started to make plans, university courses, internships or apprenticeships. But for you the future is not that clear, which makes any decisions in the present seem impossible.

You’re not alone. Many students find themselves at the end of their school years with no better idea of what career to pursue than when they started. So how do you figure out which career will be right for you?

Talk to people you trust

The best way to work out which career path to jump on is to learn about yourself. You may already have an idea of what you like: subjects at school, hobbies or extracurricular activities. Talk to your friends and family about what you enjoy about each activity. Ask them what they think and have them ask you questions about your passions and strengths. You may be surprised by what you learn from these conversations. Talk to your teachers, coaches and your guidance counselor at school, they may be able to give you some additional advice. Try to think about what you are naturally good at, this could also give you an indication of the direction you can go in.

Career tests

Your school guidance counselor may have a career test that you could complete to get some suggestions of careers that would suit your personality or skill set. The Internet also has lots of great resources that could help. Simply search for career tests on the web and you’ll find a #2few that may be suitable. You don’t have to take these tests as law, many of them are designed to make suggestions and give you ideas, not to guide your life. There are also options for paid career tests. Do some research to find the best option for you.

Research research research

Spend time on career websites like seek.com.au or mycareer.com.au looking at the different career options in industries. If you get an idea for a career that appeals to you, look at job ads for the position and find out what qualifications, skills or even personality types employers are looking for. This is will help to clarify if the career is a good fit for you. You may also be surprised at the number of career options in an industry or the entry-level requirements for positions.

Read

There are loads of websites that are specifically geared toward helping people explore different career or course options. You simply have to search for terms like “careers advice” or “course finder” to find a range of websites that are tailored to your needs. You could also try libraries or bookshops for books on topics like career options or particular industries.

Research University or Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses

#3 Information about university and VET courses are readily available in the course guides created by the education institutions or on their websites. Read through the course descriptions of degrees or courses that interest you and take a note of the suggested career paths for graduates.

Whether you decide to pursue a career for stability and financial security or for passion and enjoyment, following your interests, skills and personality is a good guide. This means you have to know yourself and have confidence in your ability. Remember that nothing is set in stone once you leave high school, you can always change courses, or pursue a completely different career path once your complete you undergraduate degree.

To connect with Year 12’s transitioning to University, click HERE.

To connect with others from your University, click HERE.

Human Labour: Necessary Evil, or God’s Design?

#3  “I want to buy a new car, pay off my house, quit my job and never work again!” So goes typical response of a recent lottery winner. I wonder how many people would like to echo those words and cast off the chains of labour.

Is that how God would have us view labour – as the dreadful punishment due fallen man? Genesis 1 paints the first picture of labour. We read that “God created… And God was moving… And God separated… And God called… And God made… And God gathered… And God placed… And God blessed.” Step-by-step, day by day, God laboured over his Creation. He wilfully, voluntarily, and joyfully brought this world into existence and when finished He said, “Yes, this is very good.” The results of His skilled work brought Him joy and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

The next Biblical picture of labour is in Genesis 2, where God told Adam to cultivate and care for the Garden of Eden. Adam didn’t complain. He didn’t ask for a negotiation table, for greater benefits, for higher pay. Apparently he accepted the responsibility joyfully as a meaningful assignment from God.

Labour was not a punishment; neither was it an afterthought. Labour was the design. It was God’s way of filling man’s days with pleasant meaningful activity. Unfortunately, after man’s fall into rebellion and sin, the nature of labour was somewhat altered. No longer could the ground yield its fruit willingly. However, in spite of sin, labour still richly rewards those who accept its yoke and still retains those elements which mark it as God’s design for us.

#1 Dignity

In His grace God designed labour as a means of helping people develop dignity. Naturally, some people, through no fault of their own, are unable to work. For them God undoubtedly provides another means of developing dignity. But to most people meaningful labour is a viable option, and to them I pose this question: Can people who deliberately refused to labour develop dignity?

Dignity does not float down from Heaven; it cannot be purchased and manufactured. It is a reward reserved for those who labour with diligence.

Dignity is available to every person in every legitimate, worthwhile profession. The farmer who plows the straight furrow, the accountant whose books balance, the executive who reads the market accurately, the factory worker who labours with speed and accuracy.

Responsibility

Though most of us learn a certain level of responsibility in the nuclear family and also in school, nowhere do we learn it to the degree that we learn in the marketplace. The marketplace teaches us responsibility in two specific areas.

The first area is our personal schedules. I know, for example, that if I have travel or outside speaking engagements to consider, I must adjust my schedule accordingly. I will need to eliminate something else in order to fill the requirements of my job.

Human Labour also teaches responsibility with respect to our performance. The words the marketplace ring loud and clear, “You do your job well, or we will find someone else who will.” It’s that simple. In every job assignment there are certain tasks we pursue with pleasure, and others we abhor. The marketplace says, “You will do them both or you will do nothing.” That, I contend, can be good. Because in all of life we must learn to take the bad with the good.

Accomplishment

After creating our world, God acknowledged that it was “very good” (Gen 1: 31). He expressed and recorded for all time His satisfaction with the world which He had created, the labour of His hands brought Him tremendous pleasure.

#2 Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. The marketplace affords us regular opportunities to launch, labour over and complete various tasks. As each of these tasks is completed, there is a brief but blessed moment that brings the payoff. Think of that salesmen who finally signs dotted line for the big sale, the mother who tucks the last child in bed, the doctor who finds the cure, the teacher who says, “class dismissed!” To these people, labour graciously affords many moments of accomplishment that can be savoured for a lifetime.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Who can love the appearing of the Lord but those who have laboured well for Him? Wether in the marketplace or in the ministry, we can labour diligently as unto the Lord, and receive the crown of righteousness, His seal of approval.

I’m A Believer

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Cherie Blair, barrister
It’s been a journey from my upbringing to an understanding of something that my head cannot explain but my heart knows to be true.

Jeremy Vine, broadcasterVine, Jeremy
There is a subjective reason and an objective reason. The subjective reason is that I find consolation in my faith. The objective reason is that the story of the gospels has stood the test of time and Christ comes across as a totally captivating figure.

In moments of weariness or cynicism, I tell myself I only believe because my parents did; and the Christian faith poses more questions than it answers.

But I still return to believing, as if that is more natural than not doing so.

Swinburne, Richard Richard Swinburne, emeritus professor of philosophy, University of Oxford
To suppose that there is a God explains why there is a physical universe at all; why there are the scientific laws there are; why animals and then human beings have evolved; why human beings have the opportunity to mould their character and those of their fellow humans for good or ill and to change the environment in which we live; why we have the well-authenticated account of Christ’s life, death and resurrection; why throughout the centuries millions of people (other than ourselves) have had the apparent experience of being in touch with and guided by God; and so much else.
In fact, the hypothesis of the existence of God makes sense of the whole of our experience and it does so better than any other explanation that can be put forward, and that is the grounds for believing it to be true.

Peter Hitchens, journalist
Hitchens, Peter I believe in God because I choose to do so. I believe in the Christian faith because I prefer to do so. The existence of God offers an explanation of many of the mysteries of the universe – es­pecially “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and the questions which follow from that. It requires our lives to have a purpose, and our actions to be measurable against a higher standard than their immediate, observable effect. Having chosen belief in a God over unbelief, I find the Christian gospels more per­suasive and the Christian moral system more powerful than any other religious belief.

I was, it is true, brought up as a Christian, but ceased to be one for many years. When I returned to belief I could have chosen any, but did not.

Aitken, Jonathan Jonathan Aitken, former politician
I believe in God because I have searched for Him and found Him in the crucible of brokenness. Some years ago I went through an all-too-well-publicised drama of defeat, disgrace, divorce, bankruptcy and jail. In the course of that saga I discovered a loving God who answers prayers, forgives and redeems.

James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool
One word: Jesus. All that you imagine God would be, He is. His life and His love are compelling, His wisdom convincing.

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
I believe in God because He has both revealed and hidden Himself in so many different ways: in the created world, the Holy Bible, the man Jesus Christ; in the Church and men and women of God through the ages; in human relationships, in culture and beauty, life and death, pain and suffering; in immortal longings, in my faltering prayers and relationship with Him. There is nothing conclusive to force me into believing, but everything sug­gestive, and constantly drawing me on into the love of Christ and to “cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt”.

David Alton, Lib Dem peer
The notion that humanity and the cosmos are an accident has always seemed implausible. A world littered with examples of complex genius – from developments in quantum theory to regenerative medicine – points us towards genius more perfect and more unfathomable than ourselves. The powerful combination of faith and reason led me as a child to believe in God.

Unsurprisingly, as I matured into manhood, that belief has not been immune against the usual catalogue of failure, sadness and grief; and belief has certainly not camouflaged the horrors of situations I have seen first hand in places such as Congo and Sudan. Paradoxically, it has been where suffering has been most acute that I have also seen the greatest faith.

By contrast, the more we own or have, the more difficulty we seem to have in seeing and encountering the Divine.

Professor Stephen R L Clark, philosopher
I believe in God because the alternatives are worse. Not believing in God would mean that we have no good reason to think that creatures such as us human beings (accidentally generated in a world without any overall purpose) have any capacity – still less any duty – to discover what the world is like.

Denying that “God exists” while still maintaining a belief in the power of reason is, in my view, ridiculous.My belief is that we need to add both that God is at least possibly incarnate among us, and that the better description of God (with all possible caveats about the difficulty of speaking about the infinite source of all being and value) is as something like a society. In other words, the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, and of the trinity, have the philosophical edge. And once those doctrines are included, it is possible to see that other parts of that tradition are important.

Nick Spencer, director of Theos, the public theology think tank
I would say I find Christianity (rather than just belief in God) the most intellectually and emotionally satisfying explanation for being.

Stephen Green, director of the fundamentalist pressure group Christian Voice
I came to faith in God through seeing the ducks on a pond in People’s Park, Grimsby. It struck me that they were all doing a similar job, but had different plumage. Why was that? Why did the coot have a white beak and the moorhen a red one? Being a hard-nosed engineer, I needed an explanation that worked and the evolutionary model seemed too far-fetched and needful of too much faith!

I mean, what could possibly be the evolutionary purpose of the bars on the hen mallard’s wings, which can only be seen when she flies? Or the tuft on the head of the tufted duck?

So I was drawn logically to see them as designed like that. I suppose I believed in an intelligent designer long before the idea became fashionable. So, that left me as a sort of a deist. But God gradually became more personal to me and I was drawn against all my adolescent atheist beliefs deeper and deeper into faith in Jesus ChrisHedley, Douglast.

Douglas Hedley, reader in metaphysics, Clare College, Cambridge
Do values such as truth, beauty and goodness emerge out of a contingent and meaningless substrate? Or do these values reflect a transcendent domain from which this world has emerged? I incline to the latter, and this is a major reason for my belief in God.

Paul Davies, quantum physicist
I am not comfortable answering the question “Why do you believe in God?” because you haven’t defined “God”. In any case, as a scientist,
I prefer not to deal in “belief” but rather in the usefulness of concepts. I am sure I don’t Davies, Paul believe in any sort of god with which most readers of your article would identify.

I do, however, assume (along with all scientists) that there is a rational and intelligible scheme of things that we uncover through scientific investigation. I am uncomfortable even being linked with “a god” because of the vast baggage that this term implies (a being with a mind, able to act on matter within time, making decisions, etc).

Professor Derek Burke, biochemist and former president of Christians in Science
There are several reasons why I believe in God. First of all, as a scientist who has been privileged to live in a time of amazing scientific discoveries (I received my PhD in 1953, the year Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA), I have been overwhelmed by wonder at the order and intricacy of the world around us. It is like peeling skins off an onion: every time you peel off a layer, there is another one underneath, equally marvellously intricate. Surely this could not have arisen by chance? Then my belief is strengthened by reading the New Testament especially, with the accounts of that amazing person, Jesus, His teaching, His compassion, His analysis of the human condition, but above all by His resurrection. Third, I’m deeply impressed by the many Christians whom I have met who have lived often difficult lives with compassion and love. They are an inspiration to me.

Peter J Bussey, particle physicist
God is the ultimate explanation, and this includes the explanation for the existence of physical reality, for laws of nature and everything. Let me at this point deal with a commonly encountered “problem” with the existence of God, one that Richard Dawkins and others have employed.
It goes that if God is the ultimate cause or the ultimate explanation, what then is the cause of God, or the explanation for God? My reply
is that, even in our own world, it is improper to repeat the same investigatory question an indefinite number of times. For example, we ask, “Who designed St Paul’s Cathedral?” and receive the reply: “Sir Christopher Wren.” But, “No help whatever,” objects the sceptic, “because, in that case, who then designed Sir Christopher Wren?” To this, our response will now be that it is an inappropriate question and anyone except a Martian would know that. Different questions will be relevant now.

So, likewise, it is very unlikely that we know the appropriate questions, if any, to ask about God, who is presumably outside time, and is the source of the selfsame rationality that we presume to employ to understand the universe and to frame questions about God.
What should perhaps be underlined is that, in the absence of total proof, belief in God will be to some extent a matter of choice.

Reverend Professor Michael Reiss, bioethicist and Anglican priest
At the age of 18 or 19, a religious way of understanding the world began increasingly to make sense. It did not involve in any way abandoning the scientific way. If you like, it’s a larger way of understanding our relationship with the rest of the world, our position in nature and all those standard questions to do with why we are here, if there is life after death, and so on. That was reinforced by good teaching, prayer and regular reading of scripture.

Peter Richmond, theoretical physicist
Today most people reject the supernatural but there can be no doubt that the teachings of Jesus are still relevant. And here I would differentiate these from some of the preaching of authoritarian churches, which has no doubt been the source of much that could be considered to be evil over the years. Even today, we see conflict in places such as Africa or the Middle East – killings made in the name of religion, for example. As Christians, we recognise these for what they are – evil acts perpetrated by the misguided. At a more domestic level, the marginalisation of women in the Church is another example that should be exposed for what it is: sheer prejudice by the present incumbents of the Church hierarchy. But as Christians, we can choose to make our case to change things as we try to follow the social teachings of Jesus. Compared to pagan idols, Jesus offered hope, comfort and inspiration, values that are as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago.

David Myers, professor of psychology, Hope College, Michigan
[Our] spirituality, rooted in the developing biblical wisdom and in a faith tradition that crosses the centuries, helps make sense of the universe, gives meaning to life, opens us to the transcendent, connects us in supportive communities, provides a mandate for morality and selflessness and offers hope in the face of adversity and death.

Miller, Ken Kenneth Miller, professor of biology, Brown University
I regard scientific rationality as the key to understanding the material basis of our existence as well as our history as a species. That’s the reason why I have fought so hard against the “creationists” and those who advocate “intelligent design”. They deny science and oppose scientific rationality, and I regard their ideas as a threat to a society such as ours that has been so hospitable to the scientific enterprise.

There are, however, certain questions that science cannot answer – not because we haven’t figured them out yet (there are lots of those), but because they are not scientific questions at all. As the Greek philosophers used to ask, what is the good life? What is the nature of good and evil? What is the purpose to existence? My friend Richard Dawkins would ask, in response, why we should think that such questions are even important. But to most of us, I would respond, these are the most important questions of all.

What I can tell you is that the world I see, including the world I know about from science, makes more sense to me in the light of a spiritual understanding of existence and the hypo­thesis of God. Specifically, I see a moral polarity to life, a sense that “good” and “evil” are actual qualities, not social constructions, and that choosing the good life (as the Greeks meant it) is the central question of existence. Given that, the hypothesis of God conforms to what I know about the material world from science and gives that world a depth of meaning that I would find impossible without it.

Now, I certainly do not “know” that the spirit is real in the sense that you and I can agree on the evidence that DNA is real and that it is the chemical basis of genetic information. There is, after all, a reason religious belief is called “faith”, and not “certainty”. But it is a faith that fits, a faith that is congruent with science, and even provides a reason why science works and is of such value – because science explores that rationality of existence, a rationality that itself derives from the source of that existence.

In any case, I am happy to confess that I am a believer, and that for me, the Christian faith is the one that resonates. What I do not claim is that my religious belief, or anyone’s, can meet a scientific test.

Nick Brewin, molecular biologist
A crucial component of the question depends on the definition of “God”. As a scientist, the “God” that I believe in is not the same God(s) that I used to believe in. It is not the same God that my wife believes in; nor is it the same God that my six-year-old granddaughter believes in; nor is it the God that my brain-damaged and physically disabled brother believes in. Each person has their own concept of what gives value and purpose to their life. This concept of “God” is based on a combination of direct and indirect experience.

Humankind has become Godlike, in the sense that it has acquired the power to store and manipulate information. Language, books, computers and DNA genomics provide just a few illustrations of the amazing range of technologies at our fingertips. Was this all merely chance? Or should we try to make sense of the signs and wonders that are embedded in a “revealed religion”?

Perhaps by returning to the “faith” position of children or disabled adults, scientists can extend their own appreciation of the value and purpose of individual human existence. Science and religion are mutually complementary.

Hugh Ross, astrophysicist and astronomer
Ross, Hugh Astronomy fascinates me. I started serious study of the universe when I was seven. By the age of 16, I could see that Big Bang cosmology offered the best explanation for the history of the universe, and because the Big Bang implies a cosmic beginning, it would require a cosmic beginner. It seemed reasonable that a creator of such awesome capacities would speak clearly and consistently if He spoke at all. So I spent two years perusing the holy books of the world’s religions to test for these characteristics. I found only one such book. The Bible stood apart: not only did it provide hundreds of “fact” statements that could be tested for accuracy, it also anticipated – thousands of years in advance – what scientists would later discover, such as the fundamental features of Big Bang cosmology.

My observation that the Bible’s multiple creation narratives accurately describe hundreds of details discovered much later, and that it consistently places them in the scientifically correct sequence, convinced me all the more that the Bible must be the supernaturally inspired word of God. Discoveries in astronomy first alerted me to the existence of God, and to this day the Bible’s power to anticipate scientific discoveries and predict sociopolitical events ranks as a major reason for my belief in the God of the Bible. Despite my secular upbringing, I cannot ignore the compelling evidence emerging from research into the origin of the universe, the anthropic principle, the origin of life and the origin of humanity. Theaccumulating evidence continues to point compellingly towards the God of the Bible.

Steve Fuller, philosopher/professor of sociology, University of Warwick
Fuller, Steve I am a product of a Jesuit education (before university), and my formal academic training is in history and philosophy of science, which is the field credited with showing the tight links between science and religion. While I have never been an avid churchgoer, I am strongly moved by the liberatory vision of Jesus promoted by left-wing Christians.

I take seriously the idea that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and that we may come to exercise the sorts of powers that are associated with divinity. In this regard, I am sympathetic to the dissenting, anticlerical schools of Christianity – especially Unitarianism, deism and transcendentalism, idealism and humanism. I believe that it is this general position that has informed the progressive scientific spirit.

People such as Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens like to think of themselves as promoting a progressive view of humanity, but I really do not see how Darwinism allows that at all, given its species-egalitarian view of nature (that is, humans are just one more species – no more privileged than the rest of them). As I see it, the New Atheists live a schizoid existence, where they clearly want to privilege humanity but have no metaphysical basis for doing so.Behe, Michael

Michael J Behe, scientific advocate of intelligent design
Two primary reasons: 1) that anything exists; and 2) that we human beings can comprehend and reason. I think both of those point to God.

Denis Alexander, director, Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge
I believe in the existence of a personal God. Viewing the universe as a creation renders it more coherent than viewing its existence as without cause. It is the intelligibility of the world that requires explanation.

Second, I am intellectually persuaded by the historical life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, that He is indeed the
Son of God. Jesus is most readily explicable by understanding Him as the Son of God. Third, having been a Christian for more than five decades, I have experienced God through Christ over this period in worship, answered prayer and through His love. These experiences are more coherent based on the assumption that God does exist.

Mike Hulme, professor of climate change, University of East Anglia
There are many reasons – lines of evidence, if you will – all of which weave together to point me in a certain direction (much as a scientist or a jury might do before reaching a considered judgement), which we call a belief.Hulme, Mike

[ I believe] because there is non-trivial historical evidence that a person called Jesus of Naza­reth rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, and
it just so happens that He predicted that He would . . . I believe because of the testimony of billions of believers, just a few of whom are known to me and in whom I trust (and hence trust their testimony).

I believe because of my ineradicable sense that certain things I see and hear about in the world warrant the non-arbitrary categories of “good” or “evil”. I believe because I have not discovered a better explanation of beauty, truth and love than that they emerge in a world created – willed into being – by a God who personifies beauty, truth and love.

Andrew Zak Williams

Andrew Zak Williams has written for the Humanist and Skeptic. His email address is: andrewbelief@gmail.com

Is a gap year right for me? Some tips to get the most out of a gap year.

#1The decision to take a gap year is a big one and should be made after careful consideration. If done well a gap year can equip you with valuable experiences, any may even give you a clearer direction of the career path you want to pursue. If handled poorly you could waste a year getting apathetic in a dead end job or lose focus by getting caught up in reckless living.

There are many things you can do on a gap year. Whether you’ve decided to go travelling or you’ve got your sights set on full time for a year, you should take some time to work out what you want to get out of the year.

Lots of students choose to do extensive travel before you settle into full time study. Travel can be a wonderful eye-opening time and a lot of fun too. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but focusing solely on this can give you a false sense of achievement until you get back home and realize you’re no better off than when you left.

#31 If you’ve decided to jump on the next plane out of your city when you finish year 12, think about incorporating some interesting work experience opportunities, if you have the right visa, and /or some worthwhile charity work can make a lot of difference to your year. Sight seeing tourist stuff is great, but doing some hard work in country will give you a sense of purpose and may give you some ideas for your future career.

If you want to take a gap year to work, may sure that you have some clear personal development goals for the year. Full time work in the right business will give you some great skills in time management, meeting deadlines, structure and can help you to develop a strong work ethic. If you find that your manager or supervisor has some skills, traits or work habits that you admire, consider asking them to mentor you. All of this personal development will help you with your studies if you decide to go to university and will hold you in good stead in your career.

You may have in mind engaging in a combination of part-time or casual work as well as internships and volunteer work. Again having specific goals are very important for keeping you on track. With internships be sure to research your options well and keep an open mind with the position you secure. The goal is to get experience in an industry you may be interested in working in. Companies typically give interns all the menial jobs, so make sure you take a positive attitude and use your time to make a good impression and ask lots of questions if you have the opportunity.

There is also the option of using your gap year to work hard and save money for your study expenses or some other big financial goals. If you decide to go down this route be sure to make your financial goals clear and work out a budget that will help you to get there. It’s also helpful to have someone, your parents or someone else that you respect keep you accountable to your goals. Give yourself some milestones to keep yourself on track and celebrate by treating yourself to something nice each time to achieve a milestone financial figure on the way to your goal.

Which Uni? Which course? Which subjects? How to make the best choices for you.

#1

The decisions you make in your final year of high school often seem like enormous life altering ones! All the adults that have been telling you what to do have now taken their hands off of the steering wheel of your life and now everyone expect you to make the calls. Don’t worry, everyone has been through this, and you will survive! Now back to the main game, which university should you go to, which course should you study, which subjects do you choose?  

Everyone has a different approach to making their choices. The best place to start is to consider some careers that may interest you. If you have a clear picture of a career path like say, dentistry, engineering or teaching, picking a course is no problem.

If your career aspirations are still a little hazy you may need to get a little creative with your choices. You may want to consider a Liberal Studies or Arts degree, which gives you a broad tertiary education. After three years you can either start an internship or working full time, or you could go into postgraduate study in an area that interests you for academic or career focused reasons.

Many graduates go on to study postgraduate law, psychology, communications,  business administration and more as a way of moving toward their career aspirations. The great this about this is that you don’t have to know exactly where you want to go when you’re 18 years old. You can work it out as you study. Depending on the postgraduate course you may need to have a major or a minor in the subjects that the postgraduate course will build on. Ultimately, however, you can find a way to get into the course you want to by talking to the heads of faculties and with lots of hard work.

The reason you may choose one university over another can #2also be varied! Every university has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. Some universities have a wonderful heritage and history for excellence in academia, while others offer forward thinking, practical course that equip you for the workforce. Some have industry heavy hitters on staff and some provide the best technology and the best student support options. Some offer online study options…

Have a close look at course outlines as these will give you a good indication of what type of study program each university provides. If you want to be an actor, “Performance studies” may look like a good option. On closer inspection you may find that one university course is performance based and assessments include theatrical performances by students. While other universities offer a more theoretical study of the history of theatre performance and all the assessments are essays.

Make a list of your options and start to assess which sounds more appealing to you. Consider things like whether moving interstate for the best architecture course in Australia is worth the expense and strain of being away from friends and family. These decisions should be based on the kind of person you are and the kind of experience you want, as well as the course your going for.

Buying Your First Car

shutterstock_53446393Are your parents tightening up on how much you can use their car? Then it’s time my friend to bite the bullet and get your own. While this may seem a daunting task, here are a few practical things that will help you to win in the world of purchasing a pre loved automobile.

Consider the whole price:The owner may be asking $3,600 for the car, but it may not include a Road worthy certificate, this alone could cost you between $200-$1500. The roads authorities in your state will charge you a fee to transfer the car into your name which for a $4,000 car will cost you approximately $250. Not to mention insurance, this will cost you approximately $400 per year for third party. So at the very least you will need to pay $650 above the asking price to get your car on the road.

Be wise:Unless it’s a vintage car, cars do not increase in value. While you want to get something that meets your needs and suits your personality, be aware that at the end of the day cars take your money they do not make you money. If you’re considering financing a car or getting a personal loan, definitely err on the side of the least amount you have to pay back the better.

Where to find them: While you may search for cars in the local paper, most often both dealerships and private sellers use www.carsales.com.au or www.drive.com.au. You can search for cars on eBay but be aware that most cars on eBay do not come with a road worthy certificate.

Take a spotter:When checking out your newshutterstock_15122191 sweet ride to be, make sure to take someone along with you. A fresh set of eyes will be able to point out faults in the car that you may overlook in the euphoria of the moment.

Things to ask the seller:The more that you can find out about the history of the car the better. Ask things like, can I see the service history booklet? When were the brakes changed last? Has this car been in a major accident? How much tread is left in the tyres and does this car come with a Road worthy certificate.

Danger signs:If you notice traces of water on the inside of the engine cap, noises from the back end of the car when you change gears, that a magnet doesn’t stick to the car body or that the gears do not change smoothly. It’s probably best to keep looking because these signs point to problems which could cost you a lot of money.

Taking that step and buying your first car is incredibly exciting, and it doesn’t need to be such a daunting process. Simply be wise, look in the right place, take a friend and ask the right questions and you’ll be on your way to fun filled motoring in no time.

Article by Raymond Mitchell 20/09/11