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™.
After almost two years of modern-day “pen pal” communication via Skype, a number of Keuka College education majors finally met – in person – the Slovakian high school students they previously saw on the computer screen.
This group Field Period included education majors, taught by Dr. Denise Love and Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, both assistant professors of education, and other Keuka students, including several visual and verbal art majors taught by Melissa Newcomb, assistant professor of art. The Keuka Field Period is a required annual internship or exploratory study of 140 hours.
Seventeen students, two faculty members and two parent chaperones traveled overseas in early June to visit the cities of Prague, Nitra, Bratislava and Vienna. Over 11 days, Newcomb directed students in photographic study of architecture and culture while Lorinczova led an exploration of Slovakian education and other unique social, political and cultural traditions of her home country and its European neighbors. Students had already gone through weeks of “pre-teaching” in advance of the trip, learning from Lorinczova a number of cultural anomalies to expect and reviewing a manual on basic digital photography with Newcomb, as well as gaining a basic understanding of architectural styles such as Baroque, Gothic or Rococo.
A last-minute foot injury kept Love confined at home, but ultimately, she was able to coordinate from the couch, helping the two professors “on the ground” navigate unexpected challenges almost as soon as they cropped up. The first biggie: severe flooding in many portions of Prague – the first stop on the trip –shortly after the group arrived. Love offered advice and assistance with the travel agency as the group moved around Prague and then on to other cities, and communicated with Newcomb and Lorinczova via daily Skype sessions.
All three professors recommended “an anchor” back home, given the benefits gleaned in this experience. The three professors had previously structured the trip to include student reflections in words and images, utilizing online blogs as electronic journals. The blogs proved a saving grace for worried parents back home who heard news reports of the flooding much earlier than the students themselves. And while students did post a few photos of flooded streets and commentary on dealing with nonstop rains, images of cathedrals, statues, gardens, public squares, restaurants and cafes far outnumbered them.
In the words of Sarah Hillman ‘13, a final, rainy day in Prague was salvaged with a spur-of-the-moment museum tour, where the whole group saw “paintings, sculptures, and other works from Alfons Mucha and Salvador Dali. They were great!” (more…)
Just like the many wines sampled, senior marketing major Jennifer O’Donnell got a taste of France itself on an independent tour of the country during January.
O’Donnell conducted her final Field Period—the 140-hour real-world investment Keuka students make in career, world and life exploration – overseas and visited spots such as the World War II battlefield cemeteries at Normandy, the Louvre art museum, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Mediterranean Sea in Cannes.
Hosted by her great-uncle, who holds triple citizenship in America, France and Ireland and his wife, a French native, O’Donnell said her goal was simply to experience the country, especially its food and wine, during her time there. At the suggestion of her faculty adviser, she also observed how the French market and sell their wines.
While O’Donnell’s relatives did not take her on tours of French wineries, each day they would visit a different café for lunch and try a different wine with the meal, she said. The 21-year-old was introduced to a sparkling red wine, Lambrusco, as well as a specialty wine, Kir, to which flavored syrups can be added, such as blackberry or cassis.
The country also has a strong tradition in the culinary arts.
And while the French eat lots of fish, pasta and chicken, O’Donnell said she noticed that “they’re very health-conscious and there are almost no fried foods at all. I had some fries, but they had no salt on them—they tasted very plain. It is just very different [cuisine].” (more…)