College life — debunked

It’s the fall after my first year in college. Honestly, I don’t know how I survived it. I studied intensely in high school, graduating at the top of my class and earning enough scholarships to avoid loans. I worked as a cashier and volunteered with animals. I knew how to drive and manage my money.

I thought I was ready for college and all its offerings: a foothold toward my future, a social and professional network of friends, and a vibrant student environment. Then, reality hit me hard and fast.

Failing two classes, having a grandparent in a coma, and hearing my mom crying on the phone, I felt as if I was in another world during my first year at college.  I no longer knew how to handle my daily life.

This past year, I started to embrace Islam more than in the past. Maybe the 1,500 miles away from home forced me to believe in some higher force to maintain my sanity. Maybe it was because I saw the positive way Islam affected the lives of many students on campus. Maybe I was just ready to think about what I truly believe and want after this traumatic year.

I am technically “Muslim” since my father is Muslim. However, he never taught me Islam. I never fasted during Ramadan. I don’t know how to pray. The only surah I know is Surah Fatiha. I’ve always felt Muslim in name only, never spiritually.

Despite my lack of knowledge about Islam, though, I felt drawn to it. I believe that a person chooses their religion. After my year away from home, I chose Islam.

Looking back over my first year at college, I see that it is a time to discover your goals for the future. After my disastrous freshman year, I want to share some advice with high school students preparing for the admissions process, the incoming college students, and the parents of Muslim children:

If you’re like me, you’ll be living in the dorms, which always have sex, drugs, and alcohol, in addition to clogged toilets and odd smells (especially true of carpeted dorms – don’t forget the Febreze!). Use your judgment. Only you know what you want to try or avoid. It’s pretty easy to avoid those crowds, if you wish, regardless of their prevalence.

* Seek help if you need it. Whether its help with Islam or chemistry, guaranteed there is someone just as confused as you are, and someone who is able to help. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

* Buy a planner, or use Google Calendar or an app to keep due dates organized. Professors have no time for excuses.

* Stay healthy. I developed a stress-related gastrointestinal disorder during my spring semester. Eat fruits and vegetables, drink water, and walk more than just between your classes and the dorm.

* Stop by the masjid or prayer room on campus to study sometimes. You’d be amazed at what people there have to share.

* Talk to your parents. I don’t like my father, but I have a civil conversation with him on a bimonthly basis. Even if it’s just “Hi, how are you?” they are still your parents. Also, if they are paying your bills, you should really talk to them.

* Embrace your religion. There’s no reason for you to hide Islam. Don’t be arrogant, but be proud of who you are and your beliefs.

I’m grateful that I made enough academic progress to continue my studies and that I have my family’s continued support.

InshAllah, this year will be better than the last.

Sadia is an undergraduate student on the East Coast. She wants to study the mind and people. She loves sudoku and Dream Theater. She is learning to use eBay and speak Hindi in her spare time.

3 Comments on “College life — debunked”

  1. Noreen K. Zaman, Ph.D. says:

    thank you for sharing your story sadia. you have been through a lot already at your young age. as a psychologist whose focus area has been working at university counseling centers, i would add “don’t be afraid to visit the counseling center on campus.” virtually every college and university has a counseling center. they usually offer workshops and groups in addition to individual counseling…all of which is geared towards supporting students. plus, you’re probably already paying for the services in some way or another through your registration fees. in my experience, the counseling center may also house some of the strongest multicultural advocates/allies on campus. you may be surprised at how helpful you find it! good luck this year!

  2. AK says:

    Loved the line “Seek help if you need it. Whether its help with Islam or chemistry, guaranteed there is someone just as confused as you are…” 🙂 ..Well miss Sadia, don’t think of Islam as organic Chem and be lost in the chains of narrations. Its more Bio-chem, learn its simple DNA and be happy.

  3. Sadaf says:

    What a lovely post. I am so glad that you still speak to your father despite your differences. this shows how Islam has truly entered your heart. stay blessed