Sikhs Find Community, Culture Away From Home

October 28, 2008

Author: Lawrence Gipson

Source: The Yale Daily News

Before coming to college, Arjan Singh ’11 said his Sikh heritage permeated his life. But at Yale, he found that sense of community missing.

“Back home, every week on Saturdays, my family got together to meet with another Sikh family, to meditate and to sing hymns,” Arjan said. “Spirituality and religion are very rarely talked about here [at Yale].”

During the past two months, Singh and other Sikhs at Yale have come together to form the Sikh Student Society at Yale. Although the group currently has just 10 members — which is the entirety of the University’s undergraduate and graduate Sikh population — its members hope to foster a sense of community and to mitigate Sikh parents’ fears about sending their children to the Elm City.

“There’s a lot of Sikh families that don’t consider sending their kids out of state,” Arjan said. “I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of Sikh kids out there who only go to community college.”

For many Sikhs, deciding on a college depends on the presence of a Sikh community in the area, said Rajbir Singh Datta, national director of the Sikh American Legal and Defense Fund. Datta said American Sikhs fear sending their children to universities without Sikh communities because they want children to maintain their culture, language and religious beliefs. For example, Datta said, Sikh parents are less anxious about sending children to universities in California, where over half of all American Sikhs live.