Being a student and living abroad can be both a lonely and the most rewarding experience. The key is to face Ramadan with the right attitude and prepare with confidence.
Being a student and living abroad during Ramadan can be a lonely experience, especially if a college does not have a huge network of Muslim students or a student organization to support Muslim students. However, with the right attitude and preparations it can be turned into a fun, and rewarding experience that brings one closer to the Muslim community as well as to the faith.
Advice for Students Fasting During Ramadan
Before starting, it must be kept in mind that college students should not compromise on their energy at all. Being away from home and family, maintaining good health becomes of paramount importance. Skipping suhoor (meal at sunrise) is not the best of ideas. It is best to find the time to sleep early and wake up in time for suhoor to eat well. Even if one finds it difficult to digest heavy food or cooked meals, one can alternatively eat nuts, yogurt and lots of fruits to compensate.
Preparing for Ramadan in College
The best way to make the most out of Ramadan is to prepare for it in advance. Once Ramadan begins, time flies so one wants to be sure one makes the best use of time before hand.
Here are some things one must keep in mind before starting Ramadan in college:
Find a Muslim student association in college or if unavailable, then at a nearby college
Email friends in a college student network. It is important to not be shy at this point and ask if others would like to join in the fasting. One will be surprised with the response!
Put up posters around college informing others of the beginning of Ramadan and allowing contact information for interested people.
Talk with the cafeteria manager to discuss that if one is missing lunch during Ramadan would the cafeteria allow for packed meals or compensation that can be used towards suhoor (Ramadan meal at sunrise). It may be a good idea to take a friend or two in order to show the manager that one is not alone and there are others who have similar concerns.
Most religious or ethnic groups receive some sort of funding from the school if the cause is legitimate. Talk with the student representative and demand assistance, either monetarily or otherwise, that would assist in Ramadan activities like combined iftar (Ramadan meal at sunset), combined prayers, Quran classes, talks or other spiritual activities.
If the top authorities at college do not show sympathy towards genuine concerns and one feels that the Muslim students are being unfairly treated, it is okay to make a petition signed by both Muslims and non-Muslim sympathisers.
Write articles in the college newspaper to show other college students what Ramadan is like for Muslim students at college, making the learning experience interesting and inspiring for others.
Spending and Enjoying Ramadan in University
Preparing for the above mentioned tasks should generate anticipation for the upcoming Ramadan. And perhaps a Muslim student will find a close friend or two in the process, which can make fasting an experience to remember in college days. Consider the following tips for observing Ramadan in a college environment:
Stock up on high-energy foods like dates, milk, yoghurt, fruits, nuts and sugar! Drink lots of water and those desserts won't hurt!
Discover the essence of unity - mingle with other fasting Muslims in the cafeteria and make dates with them for the upcoming iftars (Ramadan meal at sunrise). Join your new friends with other Muslim students in nearby colleges.
Many will enjoy arranging baking or cooking dates with friends. Try special Ramadan recipes and treat other friends. One can cook and donate to a mosque or to the homeless as well.
Most college students love music and spend a lot of time listening to it. Ramadan is for spiritual uplift, meditation and prayers and most people want to minimize other activities in order to focus on prayers. But many students find it tough to let go of the sound of music. An alternative could be to download nasheeds (islamic songs) and the recitation of Quran in the voice of your favorite reciter. There are plenty of singers and bands all over the Muslim world singing nasheeds and one might discover some new favorites!
Get DVDs concerning Islamic history, a documentary about Muslims or related to Muslims, or any thing knowledgable and watch with friends. Ramadan is about the remembrance of Allah, His teachings and His Pleasure. This can be a fun and creative way of achieving that.
With one's newly found friends this Ramadan or existing group of friends, one might find mates willing to go to a mosque for tarawih (special Ramadan prayers at night). If all girls and the mosque is far, one can even collect with friends in dorms to pray tarawih.
If alone, one can find a suhoor (Ramadan meal at sunrise) partner - it could be a friend from college or an old friend in another city and you can coordinate over phone or Skype. Watch and listen to the friend and pretend to have suhoor together.
Ramadan is a month when all fasting Muslims feel the urge to come closer to the understanding of Islam. A group of students can hold Quran sessions and it can be mutually decided how they would be structured.
How to End Ramadan and What to Learn From the Month
Ramadan is a refresher course as to what a good human being and Muslim should be like. Try to continue throughout the year on some of the rewarding habits one picks on during Ramadan.
As a reward though for the wonderful Ramadan that just went by, plan out activities for Eid as well. Join in with other Muslim friends and take a holiday from college for Eid. Spend a fun day out together after Eid prayers. Give gifts to one another, no matter how small they are, to show your love and to add to a bit of fun to the observance of Ramadan.