Living Religions: Global Experience Without Going Abroad
I’m sure many students at Arcadia had been looking forward to studying abroad prior to COVID-19, not only to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but to cover Arcadia’s Global Experience and Global Reflection AUC requirements. These tough few years have forced Arcadians to consider alternative options when it comes to experiencing different cultures.
One option I found is the Living Religions course offered by Nora Moffat, which satisfies the GE and GR requirements. I used to be a Global Media major, but the dawn of COVID forced me to reconsider my options. So, I became a Media and Communication major and had to figure out a different way to get my requirements. I landed on Living Religions, which was recommended to me by some friends. Honestly, I’m not usually that interested in religion. But to my surprise, I really enjoyed this course, especially when our class got to visit Bharatiya Temple in nearby Chalfont, which serves about 700 families who sometimes come from different states to worship. Their festivals such as Holi, which celebrates the arrival of spring, get very large turnouts.
“These tough few years have forced Arcadians to consider alternative options when it comes to experiencing different cultures.”
As someone who isn’t too familiar with religion, going to the temple was intimidating at first. We had to take our shoes off, and when we entered, the environment was contemplative and quiet. We convened in a room with volunteers who answered questions, and then we went upstairs to witness a ritual to celebrate the full moon. Idols donned in colorful jewelry represented the gods and goddesses, to which worshippers made offerings and prayed. A priest chanted and waved incense around all of the idols while a volunteer rhythmically rang a bell situated on the ceiling.
I’m usually an anxious person, especially in new environments, but this experience was calming and enlightening. The volunteers explained that it’s very important to be connected with the five senses. Our shoes have to be off to minimize distraction and make us more grounded; the bell is rung to keep our attention away from outside noise; the incense is lit to not crowd our senses; and we are given food after the ritual to stimulate our sense of taste.
The careful attention paid to the five senses was fascinating and helped me calm my mind. I was a little afraid as I don’t practice Hinduism and was in a new environment, but it was an incredibly welcoming experience. I’d recommend checking it out if you have any interest.