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Ramadan in college essay?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
Ramadan in college essay?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
Halima Niazi

Ramadan In College Is Nothing Like It Was Back Home — & That’s OK

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, in which Muslims worldwide fast for 30 days, abstaining from eating or drinking each day from before sunrise until after sunset. That’s right — not even water. (And yes, we Muslims are quite annoyed that the start of daylight saving time fell right before the beginning of Ramadan this year.)

For those who don’t observe Ramadan, this may sound intense. For me, it’s grounding.

As I write this essay, it’s about three hours until I have to eat sehri, the pre-fast meal before the sun rises. It has me thinking of the Ramadans of my childhood. Some days, I would stay up with my sisters and cousins all throughout the night until sehri, when we would be half asleep at the table, spooning food into our drowsy mouths. It was like a special Ramadan sleepover: all of us lying next to one another on mattresses, covered in a kaleidoscope of colorful blankets, talking and laughing until we were told to hush by our parents.

We would wake up at dawn and eat together, making sure everyone drank enough water to get us through the day. Then, before sunset, we’d gather in the kitchen to help fry samosas and cut fruit for iftar, the nighttime meal to break our fast. We’d all sit around the table, making du’a for one another and passing around dates to finally end the day. 

For me, Ramadan was always a time for family — a month for us to remember that we do not need materialistic things to make us happy; all we need is each other. But now that I’m away at college, Ramadan doesn’t feel quite the same. 

This is my second Ramadan I’ve spent in college, and I’m still learning how to navigate it and make the most of the 30 days. I’m not used to an iftar without the fried pakoras made of batter, potatoes, and spinach; the samosas filled with beef and chicken (or the game of roulette we play when guessing which is which); or the fruit chaat that always accidentally mixes with my mint chutney. I try to replicate the same feeling by making the same foods, but I know that’s not what I’m really missing. It’s the people.

Plus, between juggling my classes, extracurriculars, and school work with my spiritual goals and tasks, I found observing Ramadan at college incredibly overwhelming at first. Ramadan teaches the importance of a humble, slow life, but in the hustling and bustling university environment, it can be difficult to remember what the month is actually about. 

But despite these differences from the Ramadan I grew up experiencing, I’ve found ways to embrace Ramadan in college — thanks in large part to the incredible Muslim community at my school, and the daily iftars that our Center for Islamic Life holds. It’s truly special to see so many people gathered in the same room to open their fast together. The sense of unity I feel during this month is unmatched, and although I miss my family, the Muslim community on campus fills the hole right up and reminds me why I love my university. Ramadans at college may not be like the Ramadans I’m used to, but they have their own beauty, which I have begun to adore just as much.

Ramadan is about more than just fasting; it’s a period of reflection and appreciation. In refraining from eating, we as Muslims learn to be grateful for what we have. This is especially important this Ramadan as we remember the people of Palestine, their lack of sufficient food, water, safety, and other necessities — and how they still fast despite it all.

I still don’t have my family or our laden dinner table. Sometimes, I don’t have a table at all. (In fact, just the other day, I had to break my fast on the bus, on my way to an exam.) But despite my busy university life, when I’m finally able to get back to my apartment, settle down, break my fast with my roommates, make our attempt at a full iftar meal, and read the nighttime Ramadan prayer with them, it truly begins to feel like Ramadan again.

Halima Niazi

Rutgers '26

Halima is the Social Media Director of Her Campus at Rutgers. She is a sophomore, majoring in Cell Biology and Neuroscience and minoring in Creative Writing. She loves writing stories (and has aspirations to publish her own novel), dressing up, and eating sweets.