Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW
Warrane College UNSW | college accommodation for students at UNSW

UNIV 2016: Rich in history, faith and culture


From 19-30 March 2016, a group of 20+ young men – including Warrane residents Bryan Oh and Edward Chin – made their way to Rome for the annual UNIV Forum. A mix of faith and culture, the conference began in 1968 with the aim of allowing young people from around the world to experience Holy Week and Easter in Rome, while offering them a chance to reflect on different issues and take home constructive ideas for bettering society.

“I didn’t really know what the trip was,” said 20-year old electrical engineering student, Bryan Oh. “My senior tutor in my first year of college…just convinced me that it was going to be the best week of my life!”

Boasting expert guest speakers and pre-prepared presentations from the participants themselves, each forum focuses on a different topic – this year was titled ‘The Family Impact.’ Stand-out talks for Bryan included ones on how to perceive the media; as well as how to discuss your faith with others.

As for 23-year old Ed Chin, student of dental medicine at UNSW, the theme of bravery was what stuck with him long after returning home. “I remember coming away from that thinking that bravery is a big thing,” he said. ”Particularly in this sort of climate, it takes a lot of courage to really stick to your family values.”

Ed wanted to make the trip after one of last year’s UNIV attendees gave a talk at Warrane about how the experience impacted his spiritual life. And for both boys, this certainly rang true.

“I definitely walked away with a much greater appreciation of my spiritual life,” said Ed. “That would have been the biggest thing – growing in the interior life. I think it was an excellent opportunity for me to get away from the demands of my degree and sort of step back a little bit. And being, obviously, in the heart of the Catholic Church, during the height of the liturgical year, I think that really put a lot of things into perspective. It just sort of concretised why I was doing what I was doing; it was incredible to see the faith being lived.”

Bryan had similar things to say: “It was very good in increasing my knowledge of the faith. I hear about the Vatican, or that the pope said this or that… Actually going there and seeing it makes you realise how big the church really is.”

“In the morning we’d have mass every day (unless there was going to be mass in the afternoon with the pope); and there was a meditation every day as well with the priest that went with us”, he continued. “So in that sense, living out the faith that fervently throughout the trip… helped me grow in my faith.”

Apart from the conference, Rome was waiting for the boys! They visited all the main attractions – from the Vatican and multiple stunning basilicas to the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and even Florence for a day. And although they were exhausted from being on the go from about 7am ‘til 9pm daily, they didn’t seem to mind as it was evidence that they were getting the most out of their time.

When it came to their standout experiences, the boys didn’t find it hard to decide.

“I think it would have to be probably two noteworthy experiences. The first is eating gelato after literally every meal – that was incredible,” said Ed laughingly. “And I think, more importantly than that, the biggest one was visiting all the different basilicas. It was such an incredible experience to see the grandeur really, how splendid and magnificent everything was.”

“I’d say that mass with the Pope on Easter Vigil was great; because we were there about four/five hours early and we were in the third or fourth row,” said Bryan. “And it was just… I mean, I’ve never experienced anything like that… And all these people just rushing to get to mass – I’ve never seen people that keen to get to mass in my life! Usually it seems like it’s a chore for them; but it wasn’t like that on this trip at all. All these people were pushing to try and get into the basilica first!”

Bryan also can’t forget the Sistine Chapel: “To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like that before… A lot of those places you see in movies and stuff like that; it’s just very different seeing it in the flesh… all of the paintings and the fresco look like they’re coming down at you!”

Would they recommend the trip?

“I would recommend it to anyone,” said Ed.” Obviously if you’re Catholic you’ll probably get more out of it, but if you’re non-Catholic as well, it’s just an incredible experience.”

“I’d recommend it to anyone that’s Catholic or non-Catholic,” said Bryan. “From a Catholic point of view, I think it’s great because the Bible comes to life; your whole faith comes to life when you’re actually there…at all these beautiful holy sites.”

“But also from a non-Catholic perspective, I mean, Rome and Florence are really great cities, you know – they’re just amazing. In terms of culture and history, the place is so rich.”