17 Feb 2020

“The idea of becoming a religious came to mind”

Julia Umoren is a psychologist from Nigeria, who left her country to continue her studies in the UK. Her Catholic background helped her to decide to spend a few days with Sisters Hospitallers in London and see at first hand a normal day living with the community.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am Julia Charles Umoren from Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State in Southern Nigeria. I am the youngest child in my family. I have a Catholic background and was baptised as an infant. I had my primary, secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria. After graduation from the university, I worked for two years and was offered the opportunity to come over to the United Kingdom for postgraduate studies in psychology.

What are you doing at the moment?

I am studying for a postgraduate degree in psychology at Bangor University.

What do you like most about your studies?

As an undergraduate, I had an interest in the human condition. I was and still am fascinated by the complexity of the person which comes with beauty and intrigues. So studying psychology to helps me to feel the complexity of people. I enjoy the course a lot. Though stressful and challenging, it has actually improved my reading and writing skills. The course has exposed me to lots of articles, works in psychology and arguments on behaviour and dynamics. In fact, the level of difficulty, challenges, working under pressure, making difficult decisions have made me stronger and open to seeing life from various perspectives. The course has given me insight into human problems and mental processes and also a better understanding of how people are inclined to think and feel. Though human beings are quite complex, the insights I have gained about motivations, perceptions and behaviour have given me a different perspective on human reactions. Lastly, the positive influence of groups I have interacted with and other aspects of human behaviour have helped me to develop a better understanding of myself (improved self-introspection).

What I enjoyed most was the “togetherness” or “living together” that existed among the sisters. I enjoyed the fact that everyone respected the dignity and worth of others.

How has your experience in the UK been?

While in Nigeria, I did not know much about the United Kingdom except for the little I read and heard on the news. I heard about the treatment of immigrants and a few frightening experiences of stabbing, etc. I also heard of the good quality of life and the standard of education here. When I was offered admission, I was not sure what to expect. I prayed and hoped that the United Kingdom would be a better and safe place for me.
When I arrived, it was difficult settling down, trying to adapt to the weather and to understand the culture which seems individualistic. I motivated myself to settle down and to accept the different cultures, the weather, the people, the educational system and the food. I must say that I am really getting used to everything. I would sincerely say that I love it here.

How did you know about Sisters Hospitallers? Did you already know about our Institution?

During my quiet moments, the idea of becoming a religious came to mind. When such thoughts and desires came, I would search the internet for congregations in the United Kingdom. During one of my searches, I found the Sisters Hospitallers. I was moved by their charism and after a while, I decided to get in touch.

I could try to contribute some sense of joy and love in the mission/community of the Hospitallers with the help of my knowledge, skills and experience in psychology.

Why did you choose us to spend a few days with us? Is there any particular reason for your visit?

I was attracted to the apostolate of the congregation. I was moved to visit to see for myself their work and community, to sit down to talk with one of the sisters and possibly spend some time with the others.

How was your experience? Could you explain it?

It was a nice experience. I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet with all the sisters and even the residents. What I enjoyed most was the “togetherness” or “living together” that existed among the sisters. I enjoyed the fact that everyone respected the dignity and worth of others.

Any special moment?

I would say going out with Sr Lourdes the evening before my departure was a special time for me. Something that will always remain in my heart was the opportunity to meet and interact with the residents.

Could you tell us about your plans?

Occasionally, when I am alone, my mind goes back to the visit. With the help of God, I intend to visit again.

Do you plan to come back?

Yes.

How do you believe you could contribute to the Hospitallers mission / the community?

Allowing myself to be moved and touched by the presence and life of others (as happened during my visit), I can learn something of God’s action in the life of people who are no longer active. In addition, I could try to contribute some sense of joy and love in the mission/community of the Hospitallers with the help of my knowledge, skills and experience in psychology.