Thursday, August 26, 2010

Advice for Freshman

That's my planner, and that's me and my family :) Although my bug won't really be moving to Milwaukee :(, it was just a cuter doodle than us in my dad's truck. And in case my sloppy handwriting has thrown you, the first appointment of the day is to "wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy!"

College is what you make of it. The best advice I can give a college freshman is to get your smiling face out there to meet as many new friends as possible. You never know when you’ll meet a lifelong friend. I met some of my best friends last year standing in a line for a hotdog.

Get involved with the community. Find a cause that you believe in and commit to it, even if it’s just once a week. Working for a cause will give you a tie to your new community that life on campus can’t give you, it will get your focus off of your own life’s stressors, and you might get more out of it than you ever bargained for (learning, personal growth, networking).

Get involved with your resident hall’s activities and meetings. Get to know the people in your building. Resident hall meetings might not sound like the most exciting thing ever, but they are a great way to meet people. Make these people your family and your best friends and I promise you won’t be nearly as homesick in the long run. And if you run into a problem, any problem really, talk to your resident assistant about it. They are a great resource to you. And if for some reason you don't feel comfortable talking to your RA, or maybe yours is gone for the day, by all means go find another, I'm sure they would be happy to help you out. RAs are helpful and nice like that.

Try new things, on and off campus. Expand your awareness of different cultures, sports, art forms, politics…. This is what college is all about! Go to random new clubs for the free food and come out with a new hobby, learn to salsa dance, join a meditation group and see if you can sit still and not think for an hour... Whatever floats your boat! Get outside your comfort zone though.

Last year I was challenged by my religions professor to attend prayer at the masjid (Arabic word for "mosque" meaning place of prostration - prayer) with one of my best friends in Rochester, a Muslim originally from Sudan. I learned more that day than I have in most of my life, both about my community and about myself. It threw me into a different culture and it gave me first hand experience with the glares and other forms of discrimination you get just for dressing like a Muslim, even in a fairly progressive city... Within a few minutes of changing into a traditional dress and hijab (headscarf) one woman in Culver's bathroom was too scared to even walk past me. I was in the same city I'd grown up in, but I was being treated completely differently.

Sure I was scared to dress like this, surround myself with people who weren't speaking English, and I tripped over the hem of my dress walking up the parking ramp's stairs twice, but I wouldn’t trade that day for the world. I felt like I was in a different world seeing out of someone else's eyes, and I loved every minute of it.

That's me shopping at the Red Sea International African Mall across the street from the Abu-bakar Sidiq Masjid. Most people in Rochester, Minnesota don't even know we have an African Mall, I sure didn't! Turns out it's a great place to find cheap pashmina scarfs (sooo soft!) and delicious Kenyan tea... And that rug I am holding is a prayer rug, Muslims stand, kneel, and prostrate on them during prayer. Muslims pray facing Mecca, Saudi Arabia, specifically towards a building with a cube in the middle called the Kaaba. This prayer rug has a compass (all in arabic and totally impossible to read, even to my friends who speak Arabic) to assist you in figuring out what direction you should be praying as you travel. I thought it was pretty spiffy.

Best of luck with your packing :-)



  1. I thought women aren't allowed in mosques? I tried to go in one once, and they would only let guys.

  2. Good question! In Rochester (and all of the mosques I am aware of) women are welcomed to prayer and classes/events at the mosque if they are dressed modestly and wearing a headscarf. Genders are separated on different floors here though and there are many reasons for that. First off everyone used to pray on the main floor, but when attendance got too high they had to expand upward. Second, there is a lot of washing involved in the muslim faith, it was a lot easier (and more modest) for them to completely separate the women's and men's washrooms (originally both on the main floor) than to have the men using the women's washroom as an overflow men's room. And third because having the other gender stretched out praying in front of you distracts from prayer.

    Males are required to pray at the mosque on the holy day (Friday) and when they within ear shot of the call to prayer, like if they're working at the clinic downtown and they are close enough to hear the call from the mosque, then they must go there to pray. Women are not required to pray at the mosque on a regular basis, so mosques inherently have more men in attendance and larger male prayer rooms to accommodate them all. It might have just been that yours only had a male bathroom and therefore only accommodated males, as they are the only ones required to come anyway, or maybe it was a different variety of Islam. Islam varies a lot.

  3. I actually enjoyed the fact that the women and men were separated, I felt more at ease with a room full of women as they were there by choice and not requirement.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story! That sounds like a really cool experience to go through. Before I started college, I had friends that were all JUST like me, but when I got to college I let diversity have the best of me and got some crazy diverse friends. I learned SO much from my two best Muslim girlfriends! I wouldn't trade our experiences for anything. It's so fun to learn about another person's culture!

  5. Absolutely! And thanks so much B :)

    I feel like if you surround yourself with enough variety you inevitably branch out, grow, and learn to overlook race completely. We're all human after all. And you learn cool things like that dripping lime over your spaghetti or pasta is actually pretty delicious... :)

    I remember when I first went to UW-Eau Claire it surprised me, and sort of creeped me out, how quiet the bathrooms were. I was so used to having at least 3 people yelling/chatting in entirely different languages while someone was, say, over by the sink playing their guitar. I just assumed all bathrooms were this diverse and exciting. ;)... Plus after I took Chinese it was always interesting to listen in on the different dialects and see what I could understand... and also, it's fun being able to notice when people's Chinese tattoos are incomplete or grammatically incorrect ;)