I struggled in college. As the years passed, things like school work and making friends became easier, but being sure of who I was as a person unfortunately got harder for me. It took a great toll on my mental health and turned me into a person I did not at all want to be. I had always made sure to hold myself to a certain “standard,” remain steadfast in my decisions and keep firm in my beliefs. But these things are often easier said than done.
Looking back, here are five things about my faith that I wish I would’ve realized sooner during my collegiate years:
1. Be open-minded, but don’t let other people’s opinions or lifestyles consume you.
You will most likely encounter A LOT of differing opinions, beliefs and ways of life in an educational setting. I lived on campus, and it’s a beautiful thing to constantly be around others who are different than you and to have those late night philosophical discussions with people who come from different backgrounds. But the challenge is to remain steadfast in your own beliefs while being accepting of others and what they choose to do with their lives. It’s really easy to become influenced into doing things you don’t want to do, even if no one is directly peer pressuring you into anything. Increase your self-awareness in order to preserve your own beliefs when this happens.
2. Be steadfast in your prayers.
Yes, you will be extremely busy and sometimes it’s really hard to make sure you’re in your dorm or have wudu at the right time. But, believe me, as soon as you start slipping up with your prayers you will enter a downward spiral. You will constantly find excuses to not establish prayer, and eventually, it will lead to laziness even when you are actually in your dorm and don’t have a paper to write. Your prayers will help you keep yourself “in check” for lack of a better way of putting it, and will help ease some of your class-related stress as well.
3. If your school has an MSA (Muslim Student Association) or something related to interfaith, get involved.
Don’t wait. It might make you feel uncomfortable – I did at first. I hate to admit it, but I was always a little afraid of telling people that I am a Muslim, and it’s was never the first thing I wanted people to know about me while going to a college in the south. But your involvement and frankness about your faith will pay off. At least it did for me. It helped to know that there were other Muslims at the school going through the same struggles as I was, but that even though we were all struggling we wouldn’t exactly have to do it alone.
4. Have those late-night philosophical discussions.
Sometimes these talks are more beneficial than any course you could take. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion and don’t be afraid to educate people about Islam (if they want it, that is). On that note, don’t be afraid to ask about other people’s beliefs and views either. If you’re firm in what you believe to be the truth, their beliefs won’t sway you–they will only enlighten. While these kinds of discussions can be nerve-wracking, they are important to have to build a relationship of understanding with others. Use your college years wisely and try to gain as much valuable information and knowledge from everyone you can – peers, friends, and professors.
5. Let yourself have fun without it “ruining” you.
I’m not one to judge others on how strict they are with their Iman, because I have been very, very low in mine before. But regardless of what you choose to do in your college years, just know there are ways to have fun without drinking, constantly partying, doing drugs, etc. Don’t let anyone tell you these are the only ways of having fun, but also don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. What you do is ultimately your decision to make, and the consequences of your decisions are also yours to reckon with. In college, you are responsible for yourself. Just make sure above all else that you choose wisely and maturely, and that what you do is something you’re actually interested in, and not something you feel like you “should” or “need” to do as a college student.
For the most part, reminiscing about my college years fills me with nostalgia and resurfaces memories made with the irreplaceable friends that I’m extremely grateful to have. But there are some things that I definitely wish I did differently or realized before I went out and broke my own spirit. The good part is that, despite our flaws and with taking into consideration our intention, Allah loves us.