Adjusting to University Life

As universities open their doors to a new batch of students, Mirsaed has a few words of advice for the Muslim fresher

MirsaedYouths throughout the UK are getting ready to face the challenge of starting student life. For some the academic year at university will involve having to leave the comfort of the family home and the daily care and attention of parents. For Muslim students the whole process may be even more daunting, as they tend to live in closer-knit family environments, making the transition to living in university campuses quite difficult, especially if the university is in a different city. It is a well known fact that many students may find the first year of university to be relatively stressful. This is true for both resident and commuter students alike. Homesickness is a common ailment, the effect of living away from family and high school friends. But it also brings opportunities and new challenges as students are forced to meet and adjust to new environments and people. Living with roommates might seem easy but for the uninitiated it can prove daunting as they learn to compromise, negotiate, respect and share a confined space. Academically, the step up to university might pose problems for those coming from a structured learning environment in high schools into a more liberal one. There are however, things which could help students make the transition to university much easier such as attending campus events or university activities and meeting new people. Another typical burden on many students’s shoulders is the need to adapt to a new fiscal regime. For many this will be the first time they have had to manage their own finances as well as stand on their own feet. Self-discipline and prudence are essential if students have to make do on a limited budget. Student life is usually very entertaining and some students may even forget the reason they are in university in the first place. So it’s important for newcomers to stay focussed on why they are there and not succumb to the temptation to skip lectures or leave assignments until the last minute. Students who fall into difficulties or need extra assistance have a host of support services available. Campus resources, such as the Student Health Centre, Career Development, the Academic Development Centre, Campus Religious Association, and the Counselling Centre all exist to help students and make their lives on campus easier and smoother. Unlike ten years ago Muslim students today have it relatively easy. Most universities have dedicated prayer rooms in order to meet the religious requirements of their Muslim population. Islamic societies have multiplied with university Muslim students forming one of the most vibrant forces in campus life. Alongside all these developments, the doors have also opened up to extremist elements. The latter hold exclusivist views, try to highjack places of worship and impose their views upon other worshippers. It is therefore important for students to know their rights and to understand that university authorities allocate areas and spaces for religious worship for all. No one has the right to intimidate others because of differences in their religious practice. One should also remember that university is not a place for preaching but is a place where ideas are presented in a rational and persuasive manner. The concept of education has changed a lot over the years. Today many university students tend to look at their studies merely as an investment for a better future and view universities as places to acquire the skills and expertise to find lucrative jobs. For a practising believer this very materialistic concept of knowledge presents a problem. Islam places a high premium on knowledge and education; after all the Prophet Muhammad(S) was the teacher par excellence. His teaching and the knowledge that he imparted that serves as a bridge between our worldly existence and the spiritual dimension of life. Muslim scientists of the past had no problem in seeing science as a tool to discover the beauty and complexity of Allah’s creation. Their contribution and endeavour provided humanity with the most valuable instruments towards human progress. They were able to operate with the full agreement of their faith, in contrast to the situation faced by their Christian counterparts. On starting the new academic year let us remember that a complete, worldly and spiritual education should supply us with the best means of promoting intellectual, moral, physical and economic well-being. In a university environment we will most probably be confronted by new ideas, philosophies and worldviews, some of which could throw our belief system out of balance if we are not adequately prepared.. Modernity has been a major challenge for religious worldviews and in many cases has been able to undermine weak and superstitious belief systems, exposing their inadequacy. Islam however, stands out amongst other belief systems. With its profound rational and spiritual basis, Islam has been able to re-tune itself according to time and space whilst keeping its core beliefs intact. Over the last thirty years, Muslim scholars and scientists have been able to reclaim a presence in the field of research and innovation in many fields of natural and social sciences as traditional centres of Islamic teaching struggle to provide individuals with the intellectual instruments necessary to develop the kind of critical thinking that can help them formulate intellectual responses to the challenges of modern life. Muslim students need to keep up to date with the latest Islamic thinking and to network with Muslim scholars and intellectuals who have a good critical understanding of the latest ideas.

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