During a graduation webcast, students from the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Institute Bossey described what it was like to live for ten months or more in an environment like no other.
As they receive their post-graduate degrees in ecumenical studies, they look back fondly on their sense of community, professors—and even the food.
Philip Nyam, a Baptist Christian from the Republic of India, admitted he was a little apprehensive upon arriving at Bossey. “I was thinking about the kind of people I’d be with, the new culture, and thoughts of living with diverse traditions,” he said. “However, the moment I reached Bossey, within no time I could feel the belongingness,” he said. “There is nothing to worry about in Bossey.”
For many students, Bossey itself—nestled in the beautiful Swiss hillsides— is a cultural mystery, at least at first. Rev. Sister Chrisanthony Ndikani, a Roman Catholic from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said she had to get used to different types of food, among other aspects. “I had to adapt to this,” she said, “and also to coming to Switzerland where it was cold!”
Ndikani was also part of a community at Bossey that included women and men. “Before, community life for me as a nun was only women,” she said.
Emma Van Dorp, who comes from the Confederation of Switzerland, Eglise Protestante de Genève, reflected on the sense of ecumenism everywhere at Bossey: in the kitchen, in sports clubs, and of course in the classroom. "I have this image that community in Bossey is like a continuous church service,” she said.
Zlatko Vujanovic, from the Serbian Orthodox Church, helped start clubs for running and cycling. “For me it was important to build the community not only during our academic obligations and lectures,” he said. “Bossey is a perfect place for riding a bike around and running.”
Sports became a way to build relationships, too, he added: “And behind every one of us is an important story to tell.”
The graduates all expressed gratitude to their professors.
Rev. Bassey Obio, from the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, said that every professor was helpful in unique ways. “Our professors and our teachers are not only very knowledgeable in the course content but helpful and skillful in the way they combined and used appropriate teaching methods to learn well,” he said. “They helped us to achieve our learning goals.”
Underlying the sense of community, academic achievement, and budding ecumenism is ultimately a sense of love, concluded Vladimer Tsitlidze, from the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Church. “The professors seemed like they are doing this because this isn’t only work for them: they love the students. And the students can find the subjects close to their hearts.”