Living Out At Uni
The day that I found out that I was accepted into my first choice of University, I was ecstatic. Not so much because I got in, but because my parents had relentlessly agreed to let me live out in my first year. It was foreign grounds I was treading on as no girl in our family had ever done it; a taboo that a young 19 year old unmarried Muslim girl would even think about moving out from her family home without a guardian for at least 1 day let alone 1 year. There were conditions of course. The one being that I had to come home every weekend but I was okay with that as I had a part-time weekend job any ways.
For me at the time, this new found freedom was liberating. I had finally clawed away from the clutches of parent domination – just like what any other girl my age probably thought at the time. Boy was I wrong.
I have to admit in hindsight, University days was one of the best experiences of my life and I don’t regret any day that I spent there, even now. As the first day approached the reality set in that I would be on my own away from family and friends, ready to take on the Big Wide World. I was not wearing hijaab at the time but I was aware of my Islamic duties. As my parents bid me farewell on my first night I clearly remember my mother’s last parting words: “Don’t forget child...Allah is watching you.” These were the same words that would keep me in check over the next 3 years.
I remember the first night at University, I did not know anyone. My cousin lived on the other side of the campus and told me to come and meet him at the Student Union Bar. It was the first and last time I would step into it. I recognised quite a few Muslim sisters from back home but not on a personal basis and I remember getting a culture shock on my first night. I recall girls speaking to their parents on the phone, openly lying about where they were and then running off to clubs in London raving all night. This was a daily occurrence. Not the lifestyle for me...more so because my mum’s parting words echoed in my head constantly.
It was on the first night I realised the power I had to manipulate and really live my life on my own terms. It sounds cliché but I literally was at a cross road with two paths and I could choose whichever I wanted to take and knew that I could get away with it. The question was would my conscious let me get away with it? I think not. I realised the trust that my parents had put in me to act responsibly, and that it would take me one wrong move and I can lose that trust in an instant. The consequences would have been detrimental not only for me but for the rest of the aspiring girls in my family. I therefore made a conscious effort to stay away from the “raving” crowd and instead put myself in the company of practising sisters.
Ramadhan was only round the corner and it could not have come at a perfect time. I enrolled into the Islamic Society and the head sister took it upon herself to make me her personal project, later becoming one of my best friends. I woke up one day and started wearing the hijaab not because my parents wanted me to or because everyone else told me to but because it was the right thing to do, one of the best decisions of my life but above all I had realised that it was my obligation to Allah (SWT). Little did I know that this path I had chosen to take would literally pave my future in to the person I have become today. No regrets.
It was with each day that I externalised my religion through my dress and my actions that I became stronger in my religion and I was able to differentiate between what was right and wrong but most importantly, I became aware of my moral and Islamic duty to my parents and the society to act as a role model for others.
I was given a rare opportunity by my parents and by Allah (SWT) to take a decision that would either ruin me or would nurture my love for the religion and Alhamdulillah I chose the latter.
The biggest motivation for me was my mother’s words and Allah’s guidance. Without the two, I probably would have taken a different path in University. As I said earlier I have no regrets. You have to make your own place in the world. How has this shaped me as the person I am today? I am confident and independent with the ability to make my own decisions in a world dictated by media pressures of being a certain way. The wow factor in this all and I think to a certain extent works to my advantage is that I am a young Muslim girl and I know I can walk into a corporate office and have no issues with working with other men and women from different backgrounds and ethnicities. Above all of this, I am able to strike a balance between my morals, religion and “Britishness”. I don’t think I would have had such confidence if I did not live out.
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