Problem Studying Abroad: What no-one really prepares you for.

Discussion in 'TurnToIslam Lounge !' started by Seeking Allah's Mercy, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. Seeking Allah's Mercy
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    Seeking Allah's Mercy Qul HuwaAllahu Ahud!

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    Studying Abroad: What no-one really prepares you for.

    by Fajr
    As-salamu `alaykum wa rahmatullah
    I felt like writing, so... =)
    [​IMG]
    I took this picture while I was studying out in Egypt. It looks so cool and 'talib al-'ilm'-y right? Studying under candlelight and all...
    Pfft! Truth is, electricity had gone out for what seemed like the hundredth time, and I was reduced to cowering in my room, with a candle and a blanket, looking up sharply at every howl of the wind and then looking away pretending not to notice the dark flickering shadows across the walls and curtains that candles can make (I used to believe whoever said candles are romantic, and they are, until you're left in a pitch black apartment with winds and dogs howling outside, metal gates creaking, and those dreadful eerie shadows. The worst is when you hear something fall from the cabinet in the toilet... why is it always the toilet!)
    Not to exaggerate, one thing is for sure; when the electricity blows out, life suddenly transforms. After about an hour, it makes you want to cry. I couldn't really do anything when this happened; no light, no heat, no internet, the fridge starts melting (when summer), entire street is plunged into darkness so you can't even go outside, flatmates grab you like you're the security guard, or you all sit there watching each other and then eyeing the one candle you're forced to share between you.
    The reality of how people must've lived in the past and just how much our generations rely on technology kinda hits you in the face, and it's humbling.
    Most students from the West often get a harsh reality check when they go abroad to study. We're fed with an idealistic view of talab al-'ilm so when we meet certain inconveniences such as lack of water or electricity, or dealing with a difficult system or people (or the bureaucracy that's associated with that), we're suddenly made to realise (and appreciate) the comfortable, protected, and luxurious life we live back home.
    Maybe one day I'll write about each of these 'inconveniences' because I've unfortunately witnessed many students cut their journey in half and return home because of the shock or inability to deal with things. I remember walking down from the shops with a few sisters one time, and we were just chatting away in English (as you do when abroad... typical!), when a couple of sisters literally came running to us. They say you recognise your own, and that's a truth right there. We didn't know who they were, but straight away we knew they were from the UK.
    "As-salamu `alaykum!!"
    *Shriek!* "Wa `alaykumusalam!
    "OMG, we heard your accent as we passed!"
    "OMG, you're from London!"
    Lol, I don't know which group was happier as we all gleefully grinned from ear to ear, and caught up with each other like we were old friends. But these two sisters, poor things, had only been in Cairo for a month. They initially intended to come for a longer period, but because of the culture shock and obstacles they faced, they were already preparing to leave.
    "But what about your studies?" We asked.
    "Sisters, we really can't take it here, our apartment is infested with cockroaches, we had a bad experience with x-y-z, maybe we'll come back another time."
    I didn't really blame them. Infestation is one thing that I believe can truly drive you insane, especially if you like things clean and orderly like me =(. But it begs the question, is it enough to make you abandon studies and depart? And it's a question that everyone who plans to go out there and study should ask themselves; will a series of issues make you turn back on your feet, or will you pull through no matter what?
    You might be thinking, 'Whatever! I could so handle that.' Haha, I thought so too... until I found myself in major battles against mosquitoes and other 2cm animals every single night. Just think: sleep deprivation, trying to hit something that's flying at the speed of light, and being forced to do acrobatic moves as you leap from one side of the room to the other just to escape that.. that.. whatever that new species of animal that is!
    When you see students returning humbled and shy, sometimes it's because of their studies, but sometimes it's because they've lost about 50 battles against tiny creatures and flying cockroaches.
    Patience is key, and this is one major principle that talab al-'ilm (seeking knowledge) will teach you again and again. Mark my words, dear brethren.
    The first ever time I went abroad, the main pipeline which delivered water into our town burst. Now, if this ever happened in England there'd probably be mass panic, emergency services would quick come onto the scene, maybe every home would be given replacement water or a water tank etc. But here, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. We were left wondering who stole our water! We called the plumbers and they left after a few mins scratching their head. Subhan'Allah as the day dragged on, I never realised just how much we depend on water; from drinking it, to washing the dishes; it's a right spectacle when a family home does not have running water. I'm sorry but I'll tell you now, the first places to suffer are the bathroom and the kitchen. We had no water for 10 days. Yes, that's 10 whole summer days. It was crazy (and crazier to realise that for some people out there in the world, this is life!), but alhamdulillah we quickly improvised and adapted, and learnt how to use just 1 bottle of water for a million uses. Everyone in town was buying water bottles until the stores ran out, and then the people turned to taking water from the sprinklers outside (until we were informed it was actually semi-filtered sewage water!). Honestly, never again did I complain about the bleached tap-water once it returned to our town and home. I drank glass after glass in sheer gratitude.
    So, if you're going out there to study, have patience. And when you're coming from the West, it's the small things that can build up and really test your limits. And I'm not talking about a harf or two in the books... think of other small things (that have more arms and legs than you).
    Have patience, and trust me, after all is finished and done, you'll love to return and thank every single person, creature, and eerie shadow for teaching you the most beautiful thing in life: patience and the gift of appreciation.
    Ma'asalam!
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  2. Oem Soufiane
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    Oem Soufiane Junior Member

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    Maa sha allah lol :75: , eye-opener!
  3. Seeking Peace
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    Seeking Peace Junior Member

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    Asslam-o-Alaikum Sister...

    lolxxx you made me smile sister lolxxx JazakAllah-o-Khair...

    although i've not been abroad for studies but i do know what you are talking about...just a year back, i was in university and i remember how many of my university fellows used to cry for the kind of circumstances they had to face....first of all is the cultural shock that every student receives when they go anywhere in the world for higher studies...then the university environment and schedule, the hostel, the food, the behavior of people, conveyance problems, laundry handling, washrooms, lack of water, no electricity and the list goes on....but as you said they got used to it with the passage of time...

    but the most funny of all the problems they used to complain was the sounds coming from never known areas lolxxx Astaghfirullah...some of my batch fellows once told me that in the first year winters, every night they heard a sound in the middle of night and they couldn't figure it out....for many nights they were terrified by that sound...the poor souls used to say that it starts with one howl and then followed by a series of many howls.....after some torturous nights another old hostel fellow told them it was the sound of geysers that were on the top floor of the building....we laughed for years on that stupid joke lolxxx...and still afterwards they used to get terrified because of those sounds lolxxx

    no matter how much problems one faces..university life has its own charm no comparison...just remembering those days has brought a smile on my face...

    JazakAllah-o-Khair sister for sharing this post with us...

    W'S...
  4. ShahnazZ
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    ShahnazZ Striving2BeAStranger

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  5. Janaan
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    Janaan ربنا اغفر لنا ذنوبنا Staff Member

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  6. uniqueskates
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    uniqueskates Rabbe Zidni Illma

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    :salam:

    Nice one sister. Flying cockroaches? :confused: Scare me.
    Very much helpful as I am planning to study abroad. But of course, not Middle East.
  7. samiha
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    Assalamu 'alaykum

    I actually hadn't read this post of hers, so Jazaakillahu khayra. It was a good balance of wit and humor, along with a very valid point. I haven't actually studied abroad, but having visited on and off in areas with far less amenities than parts of the western world, have to definitely agree that it's a shocking reality check about how 'cushy' a life you generally may live.

    In one of my gmother's houses which is way out in the countryside in Bangladesh we would have the power go out every night right around the time people are trying to sleep. From about 12-2 (2 hours was like a minimum, sometimes it was longer) we would be trapped in sweltering heat with not an iota of light around. The IPS wouldn't even function because it hadn't been able to charge long enough, so at times it would just be me fanning my younger brothers and just ... waiting. And SubhanAllah, I've got to say it's in those moments you truly conceive the reality of darkness and the length of time. With nothing to focus on, each minute drags on and what may seem like hours turns out to have only been 20 minutes. And the entire time being alone with my thoughts and the light brushes of who knows what scuttling across the ground, it truly is a reminder of death and the day of Judgement.

    Honestly, I think all people should experience it. If not studying abroad, simply getting OUT of your comfort zones, becoming familiar with those who have less than you do, experiencing a place with less accommodations and benefits, and reaping the rewards of becoming a far more well rounded and humble person.
  8. ShahnazZ
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    ShahnazZ Striving2BeAStranger

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    ^Welcome back stranger. You've been sorely missed :)
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  9. Seeking Allah's Mercy
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    Seeking Allah's Mercy Qul HuwaAllahu Ahud!

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    Wish it were. The two of them into one person. Our al-fajr with :cool: attitude and Sister fajr with awesome awesome stuff to share with us.
    Wasalamo`Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Baraakaatuh,

    Sobhan`Allah! It's really you. You are alive Alhumdulillah. I'm so happy I posted this here. It got you out of your shell.

    BaraakAllahu feeki.

    To everyone else:

    JazaakumAllahu khayraa for your responses. Btw the article is actually about going about to seek knowledge and preparing the more privileged world citizens for the life in less privileged world. Generally of Deeni studies you have to go to countries where things may not be so deluxe as oppose to the case of secular studies.

    You go to Italy to go to a "Cooking school" or to UK for a Phd is going to be very different from going Mauritania to study `Arabic. The former is going to be easy atleast when it comes to your worldy needs. The latter "Very" difficult "at the very least" when it comes to your wordly needs.
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  10. um muhammad al-mahdi
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    um muhammad al-mahdi لا اله الا الله محمد رسول الله Staff Member

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    Assalamu Alaykum

    The sister always writes beautiful posts mashallah, jazakillahu khayran for sharing it here!
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  11. samiha
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    wa 'alaykum salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakatuhuh

    I didn't really come outta my shell, I kind of just found myself here for other reasons and this thread caught my eye. Alhamdulillah that it did!

    And I agree, going abroad to seek knowledge in less privileged areas is a lot harder, and tests your mettle far more. Some people tend to avoid all that hardship and find the easy label as a 'student of knowledge'. They'll sit in air conditioned seminars and pay hundreds for prepared class notes and weekend classes - and at the end of it, have the audacity to say they are students of knowledge. Humph. Very big pet peeve of mine. Have some humility for yourself and respect for knowledge. Knowledge requires sacrifice, it requires to a degree hardship - it's not the easy kind of walk in the park and become a scholar idea many hold today.

    Though yknow, along with that, I think this article teaches the value of being adaptable. And this is something a person can practice whether or not they are abroad, as it may be the case many are restricted from doing so and think this article doesn't have that practical point for them. It does. Learn to be adaptable now - in the situations you're in, face those hardships, learn to develop immunity against having complaints at first world problems, and it'll be a lifelong benefit. If you go to study Islam elsewhere, it will only aid you, and if you cannot do that, at least it will make you a better person.


    ** Also, can I add a small point, I see most of us start our posts off with salaam and what not, and it's kind of a habit I suppose - but in process of a conversation, I do think it's important for the salaams to be replied to. At least by one person or another.
  12. samiha
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    samiha --------- Staff Member

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    Oh, and also, since this is my first time back after ages, I've only now seen these odd little icon things and am totally just messing with them... Sisters beware.
  13. Hassan
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    Hassan Laa ilaha ilaa Allah Staff Member

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    :bismillah1:
    asalaam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Forgive me if I repeat ideas already put forward. They are important.

    Cockroaches are never nice to see, scorpions...
    I lived in a house with so many spiders in the ceiling you may not want to think about it (not these little tiny European spiders either - I'll stop there). In the middle of the night, something fairly large would run along the top of the wall dividing the kitchen from the other rooms. I do not want to think about that.

    I got used to many creatures. When you're living somewhere, you don't really have a choice. Though I wasn't trying to study while I was adjusting. I'd suggest to anyone going out of their comfort zone, don't just fly into a new country one day and start studies the next. What I'm hoping to communicate, don't avoid such an opportunity because of such stories, learn from them what you might need time to adjust to, and plan accordingly. There are limits, but living a bit more humble may teach you just as much as you learn in that class.

    When I moved from that house, it freaked me out for a few weeks that out of the corner of my eye I couldn't see things crawling around.

    :)

    :salam:
    ** That is a big point, probably deserving another thread of its' own. I have been thinking it over probably the whole time I have been here. Some people respond to "Salam alaikum" with "Salam alaikum", or greetings less than what they received. Others might start every post with "Salam alaikum", seemingly unconscious of which other greetings are offered. I keep thinking on it because I don't think there is a very clear netiquette for Islamic greetings. I would think they should reflect those of conversation in groups where new people arrive, but then you can't always tell when someone else has left the room, is that when they no longer check the thread, after some days, or as soon as they logout? What is clear, we should always be mindful of our manners, and treat each other in the best way possible, in shaa Allah.

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