The College Experience – Part 2: Freshman Year Reflections

For many Muslims, the years of high school are the most difficult times to stay steadfast to one’s religion because it is the time when hormones kick in and people of the opposite gender mingle for about eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. And since humans are programmed to be attracted to ones of the opposite sex, it makes it very difficult to control one’s desire and follow the rules of Islam. Not only that, high school is also the sanctuary for gossip, lies and cheating, all of which are dangers of the tongue that we Muslims are told be keep calm and love allahaware of because they ruin friendships and lives. So I think its pretty fair to say that high school tests a major portion of one’s iman and starts the foundation of our youthful years.

When I started college in the fall of 2013, I noticed immediately the huge difference between college and high school: I suddenly found myself engrossed with an overabundance of freedom that was not there during high school. I live in an apartment at Toledo, OH. I was away from my parents watchful eyes and I did not have to answer to anyone for coming late or ask if I could go outside. It felt like being put out in the world for the first time, out in the wild. I felt like my religion was being tested the most during that time. I had to watch myself, who I hung out with and what I did in my free time. I found myself staying on campus a lot and I asked myself what I was doing while staying on campus. For most Muslims, we grow with my parents’ watchful eyes. So we watch what we do, what we eat, and who we talk to. However, we soon grow up and we get put into the world on our own. We find out who we are and what we stand for. Our character builds and so do our principals.

I finished my first semester of college and I understood what everyone meant when they said “The person you are in college will stay with you for the rest of your life”. College is definitely a place where one understood what he or she wants and the values he or she lives by. As a Muslim, I realized the significance behind a scarf, not just the physical aspects but the spiritual aspects also, behavior wise. My facial expressions when regarding men outside of my muharam and how I speak with others needed to be adjusted so that I do not act in a way that will displease Allah. College forced me to continue perfecting my faith and strive to become a better believer.

~Tazkia Al-Bari

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The College Experience – Part 1: Intro

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It was 2:00 AM and I was still lying awake in my bed. Out of sheer excitement I couldn’t sleep. The next day was going to be my first day of college, and my mind was spinning with thoughts of classes, assignments and fears of me tripping and falling in front of hundreds of people in a lecture hall.

But overall, I had landed all the scholarships I wanted, been accepted to the program I was dreaming of and was ready for any challenge to prove that I was ready to succeed. I knew what I wanted to major in and had all of my future classes planned out. Finally the day had come for me to put that plan into action.

What I didn’t plan for was how different the college lifestyle would be. I thought everything would be perfect and that my transition as a nerdy high schooler to an even more nerdy college student would be seamless……NOT!

On the first day of the semester I saw random people break dancing in the middle of campus, their loud dubstep music blasting from a huge stereo system making me feel like I was at a concert rather than a college campus. There was a dude wearing pajamas in class. Pajamas. With little bunnies on them.

I almost got run over by a girl zooming by on her skateboard. Where the heck am I? I thought to myself. I saw people who never went to class and just hung out at the library with friends. And  pretty soon I found myself picking up some of those bad habits – drinking too much coffee (even though I hate coffee), wasting time hanging out with friends even though I had exams the next day, and mismanaging my time in general.  With so much going on all over campus it was hard not to get distracted.

It wasn’t long before I realized that something needed to change. I couldn’t control what other people did or the things that went on throughout the campus, but I could definitely control myself and how I reacted in those situations.

This mini blog series was created to identify specific issues that we as young Muslim women face in colleges and universities and will attempt offer solutions through honest (and hopefully humorous) personal experiences. In this informal way, I hope that we can open the door to a discussion that helps us all find our own unique solutions to these and other problems.