Choosing universities is always a big decision. Not all universities offer the same programs so the university you choose to go to determines to some extent how your life is going to shape out. Most people end up choosing the school that is the closest to home which has vast amounts of advantages; it’s cheaper, you get free meals and most of all you get to live at home. Others however, do choose to go away from home and that was the decision I ended up making when time came to pick universities. I had always wanted to go away and when my cousin made the same decision a year earlier, it set the process in motion.
University is difficult to begin with. Everything is new and a lot of adjustments have to be made in order to succeed but living on campus as a practicing Muslim makes it more complicated and being a hijabi, even more so. Most buildings, on any university campus tend to be co-ed with shared bathrooms and even if you end up finding a building that isn’t co-ed or has designated all female floors you still find males in common areas like bathrooms or hallways. This was something I struggled with the most. Having to cover myself completely every time I stepped out of my room was not something I was expecting to have to do but eventually, after running into unexpected guests on the floor, I realized it was a necessity.
Something else I struggled with was the residence environment. I realized how sheltered I was in high school when I got to university. I used to think that the media exaggerates the high school environment so I went in to university expecting the same exaggeration about campus life that was shown about high school. However campus life is exactly what it’s made out to be. Frosh week started out with parties lasting till four in the morning. This continued throughout the year and because I lived amongst it all I knew exactly what went on at the events. There were certain days of the week when I locked myself in my room and didn’t leave unless absolutely necessary. The lack of respect for rules or authority surprised me immensely at first but eventually I realized how easy it is to ignore rules and authority when there is no one you really have to answer to but yourself.
There were things I struggled with and then there were things that were made very easy for me, my roommate being one of them. We never became best of friends but the amount of respect she showed for my beliefs, as an atheist, I will always be grateful for. She never complained about my alarm ringing really early in the morning so I could pray, waited to eat with me when I was fasting, was quiet during the times when I was praying, let me know in advance when she was going to invite a male guest over and much else. She made it really easy for me to be able to practice my beliefs. An advice I would give to anyone who is planning on going away for university would be to communicate with whoever you are assigned rooms with. Let them know if you are going to waking up at early hours, or if you don’t want them to have certain types of guests over. This way there are fewer problems later on. Because of lack of communication, I saw many people living in conditions that they were not comfortable with and changing roommates is not always a possibility.
Something else that made the experience much better was the company of good friends. Isolating myself from people because of the environment they were in seemed like a good idea at first but being surrounded by friends helped me feel at home. I knew what my limits were and because of that people around me knew what I would be comfortable with and what wouldn’t sit too well with me.
Although difficult, I believe overall the experience was great. The amount of trust my parents put in me to be able to send me away never really sank in until I lived alone. It is so easy to lose yourself in the environment when there is no one there to watch your every move. All that’s needed is that first step and everything else comes easy. Being away from my parents taught me what was important for me. Everything I did was because I wanted to do it and not because it was expected of me. The decision to move away from home was an easy one for me to make but I never really realized how difficult it would really be. The fact that I learned so much about what is important to me made everything I struggled with extremely worth it.