Imagine visiting the Sikh house of worship in India. You remove your shoes at the gate, ceremonially wash your feet in a shallow pool, and cover your head as you proceed into the central area of worship. Inside, you circle the Sikh holy book in a clockwise path to show respect in the presence of meditating worshipers and chanting spiritual leaders.
For Ammon Treasure, a senior majoring in Anthropology at Southern Utah University, this was part of his study abroad experience. The trip to India was led by Dr. Emily Dean, Associate Professor of Anthropology, and Dr. Shalini Kesar, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Information Systems.
“I was struck by how powerful sincere belief can be as a force for good,” Treasure said of his experience in the Sikh house of worship. “Although I didn’t understand everything I observed, I knew I was taking part in something significant and tried to show my deepest respect.”
While in India, Treasure was greatly affected by the huge disparity between social classes. At street markets, he was amazed to see hard working people selling their goods, then enter a fine dining restaurant where they were offered many delicacies. Although he had a wonderful time, Treasure expressed he couldn’t help but feel guilty enjoying such decadence only hours after observing people struggling to make a living outside in the oppressive summer heat.
“In all honesty, it sometimes made me feel uncomfortable to be pampered,” explained Treasure. “The most important thing I learned on this trip was to appreciate the wealth I have – and to give back to those less fortunate whenever possible.”
As a budding Anthropologist, Treasure seeks to understand and appreciate the diversity of humankind. He firmly believes that learning to empathize with people in different situations makes us more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of our own circumstances. For this reason, he thinks everyone should study abroad.
“Regardless of one’s area of study, there is a study abroad opportunity out there that is the perfect fit,” explained Treasure. “It might be as simple as taking a bus down to Mexico for the weekend or a lengthy stay halfway around the world. Investing in travel is the gift of a lifetime of memories.”
One of the most impactful lessons he learned was that kindness is universal. “Wherever you go, people are generally good,” said Treasure. “Patience and respect go a long way. Don’t let fear keep you from experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”