Leicester: World Religions and Multiculturalism Study Tour

Hello once again from England!

By now you know that FIE is very interested in educating students about the United Kingdom through travel.  This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in an optional study tour to the East Midlands city of Leicester.  This tour was offered to students who were enrolled in the ‘Islam’ and ‘British Life and Cultures’ courses during their time studying abroad.  A group of nine students including myself and two FIE faculty members travelled first by train to Leicester and then by minibus throughout the incredible town.  Our goal was to explore the cultural diversity of a city where 50% of the population is of immigrant origin.  As a student pursuing a diversity and inclusivity path with FIE, it was a special experience.

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We began the day by visiting BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir where we had a tour of the Hindu temple.  We were asked to remove our shoes once we arrived, but the floor in the lobby area was actually heated so our feet did not get cold.  Although they did not allow photography inside the temple, we were able to get a group shot right outside.

 

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Next we visited the OWMA (Oadby & Wigston Muslim Association) Community Centre.  This was my favourite part of the day.  We were served lunch and had a talk with some of the Muslim management of the organisation.  We also had a tour of the Mosque and had the opportunity to observe the Islamic faith through their midday prayers.  I was very moved by this visit and listening to the people describe the difficulty of dealing with the terrible acts of terrorism by ISIS and the effect on the Muslim community.  They explained that terrorism in the name of Islam is in direct opposition to the peaceful and non-violent beliefs of the religion.  I left with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by many minority groups.

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After we departed the OWMA, we boarded our minibus again and went to Gurdwara Shri Guru Harkrishan Sahib Ji.  Not only were we asked to remove our shoes, but we also had to wear head coverings and wash our hands once we were inside the temple.  We were given a short presentation about the Sikhism religion and then we were introduced to many different vegetarian foods.  It was another great stop on our Leicester tour.

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Following the Gurdwara, we went to New Walk Museum and World Arts Gallery where we had time to walk around, see some major exhibits and visit the gift shop.  Then we took a short walk to our last place of worship for the day, the Leicester Jain Centre.  After removing our shoes for the last time, we had a tour of the beautiful temple and learned about the Indian religion of Jainism.

As the day was coming to an end, we travelled to Leicester’s Golden Mile, a unique stretch of road known for Indian restaurants, shops and festivals.  This was another highlight of the day for me because we made our way over to Bobby’s Restaurant, which is known for its vegetarian Gujarati cuisine.  I was also seated next to Councillor Manjula Sood, the first Asian Female Lord Mayor in the United Kingdom.  She welcomed us to the city and chatted with me during the meal.

Once we finished our third meal of the day, we drove back to the train station where we boarded and went back to London.  Overall, the study tour was a great success.  I witnessed things I would have never seen if I didn’t attend.  This was the first term that FIE offered this particular tour and I hope the Foundation will be able to continue to give students the chance to understand civilisations through the wonderful and diverse city of Leicester.

Until next time,
Lizette

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