Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of features on recipients of the Spiritual Exploration Field Period™ Award. A Spiritual Exploration Field Period™ involves work with churches, missions, hospitals, or hospices with an eye toward providing aid to needy individuals and/or groups, in this country or abroad. Funding for the scholarship is provided by an Institutional Renewal Grant from The Rhodes Consultation on the Future of the Church-Related College.
Travel to a new land. Experience new people and a different religion. Immerse herself in an entirely different culture. Encompass the type of adventure and life experience that is paramount to her.
These are some goals junior Sini Ngobese had for her January Field Period™. The business management and organizational communication major from Durban, South Africa, traveled to Thailand “as part of my life goal to be a culturally and spiritually diverse, world-minded, global citizen.”
While in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country, Ngobese, a Christian, said she had no plans to change her current religious affiliations, but “I was passionate to discover the diverse ways in which believers of other religious express their spirituality,” she said. “I also wanted to see what houses of worship are sacred to them, what monuments encompass their devotion for their deity, and what actions or rituals help them feel closer to their deity and spiritually awakened.”
Ngobese wanted to meditate and practice yoga with experts in order to attain greater spiritual engagement as a Christian. She toured historical landmarks, Buddhist temples and other heritage sites, zoos, botanical gardens, snorkeled, and visited an orphanage.
“I wanted to see the things that weave together Thailand’s history, which influence the country as it is today,” said Ngobese. “One of those influences includes the various, extravagant drag shows orchestrated by Thailand’s transvestite population. I looked forward to attending some of the shows.”
Additionally, Ngobese planned to observe the mannerisms and behaviors of the monks at the temples to not only gain a better understanding of these spiritual leaders, but also to draw parallels, contrasts, and comparisons to various Christian spiritual leaders, and learn what perceptions Buddhists have of Christians.
“I also explored Thai culture through one of the most fundamental ways in which one can experience a new culture—its food,” said Ngobese. “From enrolling in a cooking course to sampling the culinary creations of various street stalls, I learned what tastes, combinations of spices, textures, and culinary aromas form what the Thai people have deemed their best and most popular national dishes.”
Added Ngobese: “The founder of Keuka College, Dr. Rev. George Harvey Ball, believed that an individual’s college experience should be both educationally developing and spiritually enriching. Traveling to Thailand helped me become both.”
In addition to receiving the Spiritual Exploration Field Period™ Award, Ngobese also earned a Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award. The award, named after the late 1963 Keuka graduate, is supported by Brown’s family and the Class of ’63. It is designed to assist students who pursue a culturally-oriented Field Period™.