Alexandra Jarrett is a former BU student who is graduating this year from the BA (Hons) Sociology & Anthropology programme in HSS. Prior to taking up her MA studies at the highly prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Alex was invited to the beautiful northern Thai city of Chiang Mai to present aspects of her final-year dissertation on Buddhist death rituals and beliefs.
Alex’s contribution was very warmly welcomed beyond our hopes and expectations. As her supervisor I was delighted to hear her accounts of how this experience deepened her understanding of her chosen area of interest: the anthropology of relgioun and spiritual belief systems, which she started exploring moredeeply in the Soc+ unit ‘Seekers, Believers & Iconoclasts: Sociology of Thought’. Participation in the Symposium also elevated Alex’s awareness of how much bright, energetic and keen UK students have to offer on the world stage at a dismal time when Britain seems to be wilfully stepping away from the limelight and heading out of the backdoor. Enough of the doleful thoughts – over now to Alex:
‘This summer, I was delighted to be asked to deliver a guest speech at the World Youth Buddhist Symposium in Thailand. The theme of the symposium was “The way of Peace” and I delivered a talk entitled “consumerism and the false self”. When I arrived at the university in Chiang Mai, I was overwhelmed by the setting of the symposium. The ceiling was lit up by giant lanterns and the front of the stage full of flowers. I was very impressed with the organisation of and the pride that was taken in holding this symposium.
The first day of the symposium was magnificent – the opening show began with traditional Thai dances and a flag ceremony (where I was chosen to represent Britain). Each day of the symposium began with the introduction of the honourable guests, which included Khenpo Sydogye (a famous Tibetan teacher). Over the course of four days, I learnt about different religious perspectives towards peace and how this should be achieved worldwide. As well as this, I took part in meditation and a life release ceremony involving releasing fish into the lake whilst singing and chanting mantras.
My speech was ten minutes long and discussed the influence of consumerism, social media and technology on achieving peace. I discussed the idea of how wealth can often contribute towards selfishness and how technology creates an idea of a false self where consumers become obsessed with projecting a certain image of themselves online. As well as delivering this speech, I was asked to perform a song on the final day of the symposium during the closing ceremony.
My experience at this symposium was amazing and I learnt a lot about Buddhism and different religious perspectives towards peace. The symposium was predominantly run by the Chinese so I also learnt a lot about the Chinese culture and their pride in running an organised, impressive conference.’
The entire Soc+ team is very proud of Alex and her achievements, which were featured in the BU news. We hope she will stay in touch and return to BU one day to address junior Sociology+ students as one of our most excellent and inspiring alumnae. Well done Alex!
Alexandra Jarrett and Sara Ashencaen Crabtree