Ramadan abroad colorless: Students

JEDDAH: As the holy month is about to end now, Saudi Students studying abroad talk about their Ramadan experience away from their families and friends. Some think it was a perfect time to learn how to make it on their own. Others say that it was a way to get closer to other Saudi students in the same city.

“It has been four years now since I spent Ramadan at home. I miss being surrounded by my family during iftar and then watching local television afterward; the weird thing is that I love it here in London but when it comes to Ramadan I feel like it’s the worst country to be in because the day is too long and I have to wake up early for school, said Ahmed. I fast for hours in classes which leave me tired,” he added.

Being away from family makes students depressed and unhappy. “Ramadan is depressing because my family isn’t around me. Sometimes I go and have iftar with my married friends and other times I’m all alone and as a single person, it is sad and depressing to have to sit at the table all by myself and I feel like Ramadan has lost its special spirit,” said Sofana Al-Khereiji, international marketing and business development student in Nice, France. “It feels like a regular day but with me being starved and homesick,” she added.

Ramadan family gatherings are what students miss the most. “This year, I was lucky that my parents and brothers got to spend Ramadan with me because it’s a school vacation back in the Kingdom. Last year, I spent it with my Muslim friends who go to college with me,” said Ali Ismael, marketing student in Cairo. “I got to eat my mother’s Ramadan special dishes and enjoy iftar with my brothers, which is what makes Ramadan special for me,” he added.

Living and being surrounded with non-Muslims make fasting hard on Muslim students. “My roommate is not a Muslim so he spends his morning eating and drinking even smoking and of course I can’t ask him not to do that for me because what’s the point of it?,” said Alia Kamel, a public relations student in California. “So I try to stay in my room or spend more time at the university to avoid seeing a cold glass of Coca-Cola in his hands,” he added.

Gulf students gather on a daily basis to have iftar together and go to pray in a group, said Hamza Khushaim, an MBA student in Michigan. “We try to maintain a little bit of our tradition in Ramadan,” he said. “We have been gathering for a while now, every one of us gets to cook his country’s famous dish and with that we get to be introduced to one another’s culture and food every day,” he added.

Newlyweds see Ramadan as an opportunity to start their own traditions and their own home-cooked dishes. “This is my first year in Canada and I’m not used to the cold weather but I’m trying so hard to adjust to it so my husband and I can start a happy life. But when Ramadan came, I became homesick and I missed my mom’s famous soup and her Arabic coffee, so my husband came up with idea of making our own soup and coffee so when we have kids they will miss my special coffee and soup,” said Nouf Al-Ashaary, a medical student in Montreal, Canada. “Now I look forward to going home and making my new soup after a long day at college,” she added. -arabnews