As summer is quickly coming to an end, many graduated high school seniors will be packing their bags and heading off to university for the first time this year. What’s a Muslim girl to do away from home and in a completely new environment? Here are some tips and advice that I figured out while living on campus for my first year at Binghamton University.
1) No, you’re not alone. Coming from a relatively diverse high school, I was still pleasantly surprised to find many Muslim girls in my classes. Young Muslims are becoming a sizable contingent in America’s higher educational institutions, so chances are you will see at least one friendly, hijab-wearing face in your lecture halls this fall.
2) Look out for Muslim student groups. There’s one on just about every college campus in America, and just like other clubs, they’ll be posting fliers and notices about meetings and events as soon as classes start. It’s also a great way to meet other Muslims in a friendly, non-academic environment. Last year, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at Binghamton held weekly lectures about Islamic topics, gave us iftaar during Ramadan, and even had a banquet with members from the local Muslim community.
3) Get to know Muslim professors and TA’s. Just like students, they’re out there as well, offering advice and guidance for young Muslims at college. I’ve heard of Muslim professors joining in on MSA events, inviting Muslim students over to their homes for dinner, and even hanging out with them on the weekends!
4) Take advantage of any Muslim perks your university offers. Binghamton is, so far, the only university I know of that has a halal food station in one of their dining halls. (It’s so delicious, even non-Muslims eat there!) During Ramadan, they even opened up one of the dining halls for sehri, giving us warm pita bread, eggs, beef and yogurt every day at 4 a.m. Knowing you can stay true to your religious obligations even while you’re away from home is always a relief!
5) Most college kids will understand when you tell them about your beliefs. None of my close friends are Muslim, but every single one of them respects me and my personal choices. My roommates and I often discussed the specifics of our various faiths and ended up learning a lot from one another as a result. Be open about who you are as a person, and you’ll find that making friends will be the easiest thing you’ll ever do at college.
6) If you can’t beat them, don’t join them. Yes, the rumors you’ll hear about college kids on the weekends are 100% true, but know that there are lots of other ways to keep yourself entertained. Many universities host programs, like our “Late Nite Binghamton”, that specialize in non-alcoholic activities for college kids and—newsflash!—plenty of people go. Find something similar on your campus, or get creative with a group of your friends to make your weekends fun, safe and halal.
7) Never be judgmental. If you want your fellow college students to accept you for who you are, you’ll have to return the favor with no strings attached. Going to university is about meeting new people and learning about new things, whether you agree with all of it or not. Shutting yourself into your room with your pre-conceived notions in hand is the wrong way to go about a healthy, happy college life.
With the help of of your faith and an open heart, you’ll soon be navigating your campus as a Muslim girl like a pro!