A Spiritual Journey
Cherrie Fung is a graduate of Religious Studies at CUHK. For her, the university is not only a place to gain knowledge and skills for her future employment, but also where she could explore some of the fundamental questions of human existence, and study how various religions respond to these questions in many different ways.
‘Religion is a major component of human civilization. An in-depth understanding on religion would enable inter-cultural communication and promote mutual understandings within families, workplaces, among different ethnic groups and nations of different religious traditions,’ remarked Prof. Tam Wai-lun, Chair of the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies.
The Religious Studies programme at CUHK offers its undergraduate students the opportunities to explore and analyze the world’s major religions critically with an interdisciplinary approach. Students are exposed to the research methodologies of various academic disciplines, such as sociology, philosophy and psychology, and are encouraged to apply these methodologies in their research and study on religion.
The programme also introduces how religion has inspired the creative process of great paintings, sculptures, architecture, literature, theatre, film and music of the past and present. Students can also study the role of religion in formation of various social, political and economic systems, as religious beliefs continue to play a significant part in shaping the ideologies of political leaders and social movements around the world.
‘Students of the programme are encouraged to look at the ways religion interacts with human civilization across time and cultures around the globe, and how its beliefs and practices vary in different regions. Geographically, we encourage our students to focus on the major religion practices in China and along The Belt and Road region,’ said Professor Tam.
The programme also provides its students with opportunities for overseas fieldtrips and enables them to obtain first-hand information by observing how religion affects people’s daily lives.
Cherrie finds the fieldtrip opportunities one of the most impressive learning experiences offered by the programme:
‘I had the chance to visit Taoist shrines, Buddhist and Hindu temples, Christian churches, and Islamic cemeteries. I still remembered the moments when I entered different religious architectures, examined their structures and decorations, observed various religious rituals and spoke to the religious leaders and believers. These experiences left a strong impression in my undergraduate years. I was able to learn more in these visits than simply obtaining information from books or archives,’ recalled Cherrie.
The fieldtrip experiences also foster a close relationship between the teachers and students. Each year, the programme enrolls 20 new undergraduates. With a relatively small class, students in the Religious Studies programme know each other very well and they are always comfortable to share with each other their opinions on academic and social issues.
Students can also consult their academic advisors when they encounter difficulties with their studies. They are also encouraged to discuss with their academic advisors and decide a thematic focus for their coursework and research.
Religious Studies may not be a career-oriented progamme. However, Cherrie is confident that the programme has prepared her with the necessary skills to realize her dream after graduation.
‘The programme offers me valuable trainings in terms of critical thinking, independent research skills, as well as cross-cultural understanding, empathy and tolerance. It also gives me the perspective to explain and understand major global events. I am sure that these trainings would be useful for my future career as a school teacher,’ Cherrie said.
She would like to explore the importance of spirituality with the younger generations and guide them to find true happiness and meanings in life.
Similar to Cherrie, many graduates in Religious Studies pursue meaningful and successful careers in the government, media and publishing, journalism, advertising, business, education, travel and tourism, as well as NGOs. Some of them would further their studies in local and overseas graduate schools or undertake formal religious trainings.
The programme is looking for students who are self-motivated and eager to learn, with good verbal and written communication skills and are sensitive of international issues. Students of the programme need to be creative and curious, with good problem-solving skills and an open attitude.
As a student who has gone through four years of undergraduate trainings in Religious Studies, Cherrie has a few words to share with secondary school graduates who are interested in the programme:
‘The Religious Studies programme will train you to listen compassionately, think critically and speak thoughtfully. These qualities are not only essential for success in your future career, but also enable you to become a wise and humble intellectual,’ said Cherrie.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018