The Sikh Student Association is an organization that holds meetings and events on campus to spark active and philosophical exploration of Sikhism. This religion is often misconceived as part of the Islam religion, but it is actually very different. This campus groups strives to dispel these misperceptions and invoke an understanding of the faith by spreading awareness.
SSA holds periodic meetings to discuss currents events of this world and how it applies to their faith and culture. They also have religious ceremonies, which are held at various homes in Gainesville. Sonia Sondhi, the Vice President of SSA, said, “Since we don’t have a temple here, families in the Gainesville area would host at their houses, and we would have religious ceremonies there.” These ceremonies are typically practices in temples called gurdwaras. There is one located in Jacksonville and one in Tampa, therefore the organization will provide group transportation to these ceremonies about once a month. SSA also organizes socials for the clubs to spend time together and develop lasting relationships with people who share the same lifestyle and beliefs.
This campus organization also holds widespread events with the goal of educating people about their faith. For example, they have Turban Days once a semester to show people what it means to represent their faith on a daily basis. Sondhi explained that turbans are worn to keep one’s hair pulled together. She also said that turbans are often misconceived as garbs worn by Muslims, and the media has portrayed them as terrorists. In contrast, the turban symbolizes equality in the Sikhism.
The objective of Turban Day is to dress people who are not affiliated with the Sikh faith in a turban and have them walk around campus for an hour or so. Those students who participate are then asked to come back and share how they felt while wearing the turban. SSA hopes that students will realize what it’s like to be looked at and discriminated against. These students have the opportunity to experience life from the perspective of a Sikh.
Sondhi emphasizes that the Sikh Student Association encourages many different types of people to come to their meetings and events. “We want to learn from others, and we want others to learn about us, as well,” she said. SSA has helped many students find a home on the UF campus. For Sondhi, she said, “It has made me more proud to be who I am.”