Ramadan & Eid on Campus
I know this is a little bit late now (I kind of died during exams sorry) but I hope everyone enjoyed their Eid for all those who were celebrating! I thought I’d do a blog post about this as it’s something that I’ve struggled with personally in the UK after living in the Middle East which is spending Ramadan and Eid on campus.
During this time of year when Ramadan comes about, I get insanely homesick. It’s very lonely to come from a country where the whole country is transformed during Ramadan and an amazing vibe comes together, to somewhere like here where barely anything happens. I remember first year, I barely even ate on the first day after breaking my fast at 9pm because all I could think about was how my family were all gathered together in Cairo at my grandma’s house and I was in my room in my hall, alone with a meal, while my flatmates were pre-drinking in the kitchen.
This year and last year’s Ramadan was also really tough for me because I’ve never had to fast that long. I’ve only ever gone without food and water until 7:30pm maximum while here I’m having to go all the way to 9:30pm AND start fasting again at 2-3am when back home I’d be able to eat up to 4am. I know that everyone in countries like the UK has to do this, but switching to that was quite tough for me, especially because the last 2 Ramadans have come during exam season – so around 4-5pm, I’m dehydrated with no energy and I can’t focus on studying. It’s hard and I’ve had to learn how to get around it.
I know this all sounds incredibly sad, hard and lonely and it may seem like I’m complaining but that’s not what I’m trying to do at all. I’m just trying to honestly share my experience just so if anyone is ever in a similar situation to me, they know they’re not alone. I’ve now learnt that there are ways to make sure that you’re not feeling so down during this time of year and I wanted to share them in case they help anyone at all as this time of year is supposed to be a lovely one and not a sad one!
- Islamic SocietyThere are many Muslims on campus from different cultures and what I didn’t know in first year (which I do now!) is that the Islamic Society does an iftar in the prayer halls every night of Ramadan so you don’t have to eat alone. It’s still nothing like being back in Cairo for me surrounded by my family and friends, but it comes close enough.
- Plan your own iftars!Find friends who are either Muslim, or would just like to eat with you when you break fast. If you don’t like breaking your fast alone, invite or plan with others so you have your iftar together (even non-Muslims! A lot of people love learning about other cultures/religions so don’t be afraid to share that!). It’s not only a great way to come together – but during exams, it can be a nice way to take a break and spend some time together, as well as share some food from your own cultures.
- FaceTime your family and friendsNow while everyone in Egypt had broken their fast about 2 hours before me, I’d sometimes call my family or friends while eating if I couldn’t eat with others just so I had someone to talk to and pretend like I was back home for an hour. It’s not as great as eating with others but can make you feel a little bit better.
- EXAM SEASON – how do I study effectively without food or water?Everyone’s different in how they’d handle fasting during exam season. What it meant for me and my friend, was getting up later in the day, and staying up later in the night. While this does mess up your sleeping pattern a bit, it just meant that for me that I was able to wake up and work consistently from let’s say 11am to 6pm, take a break from 6-9pm then work from 10pm to about 1am when I’ve eaten and I have more energy. Some people can study fine while fasting but I personally tire out very easily. Some people I know would just study for a half-hour then take frequent breaks as they didn’t burn out as easily. It’s all up to you and what you’re comfortable with.
- Take a day off?This is a bit controversial for me to say to some people – but it’s a personal choice on what I was comfortable doing. If you don’t want to do this, that’s absolutely fine. I personally did not fast the day before an exam as I felt that I needed energy the whole day to be able to effectively study for the exam the day after. If it was an afternoon exam, I also would not fast on that day – morning exams were fine. I tend to crash in the afternoon while fasting and I was afraid that I’d crash in the middle of a 2-3 hour exam which starts at 2pm. AGAIN, this is a personal choice, and I make up the days after Ramadan is over anyway (I’m a girl as well and we can’t fast on our periods and have to make up the days anyway so I just add a few days to that).
- EAT WELL & DRINK A LOTI cannot emphasise this enough. Having to fast 17-18 hour days is intense and you need to make sure that once you can break your fast, that you’re eating well and enough. And drink a LOT of water! The thing I find when fasting here is that because I’m not eating the whole day, my appetite is smaller. Don’t eat everything in one go at 9pm – have small meals up to 1-3am (depending on when you sleep). It’s a good way to make sure you have enough food and energy in you for the next day.
- Exercise?Sadly, not many gyms are open late enough to go after iftar (in Egypt, gyms would be open later during Ramadan to accommodate for this – but then again we were only fasting until 6-7pm anyway). I personally don’t like to exercise that late and wanted to spend that time studying since I’d eaten and had more energy – so I used to swim in the day instead as I found that it was the only way I could exercise without necessarily getting very dehydrated or too tired. If you don’t like swimming, what you can do instead is go for a walk, or if you’re feeling up to it, go for a run outside after you eat.
I hope this helped and I hope everyone’s had a blessed time! I just noticed that no one had posted about Ramadan before and wanted to share some things that I’ve experienced so I could help others.
Hope everyone has a lovely summer and your exams were okay!
– Rana x