This story is part of a series on Muslim college students:
Becoming 'The Other' In America | Practicing Islam At A Catholic University | Being A Muslim Leader In College | Inside A Muslim Fraternity | Addressing Anti-Arab And Anti-Muslim Attacks | Finding Space For Prayer On Campus
Hatice is a member of the Brandeis University class of 2017. Brandeis, located in the greater Boston area, describes itself as the "only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university in the country." The school currently has three chaplains representing the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Hatice wrote about her experience with prayer on campus:
It was only after I declared that I would be attending Brandeis University that I was pleasantly surprised when I found the spacious prayer room in the [Muslim Student Association] Suite on campus. I had not bothered to look for prayer rooms in the universities that I had applied to as a senior in high school. This was not because I did not care, but rather because, ever since I started praying five times a day, due to the lack of a private prayer area in school, I was always shown a small area to pray after speaking to the school administrators.
In middle school, I prayed in the basement next to the lunch lady's desk, whereas in high school, I was shown a small file cabinet storage room. Since praying became an integral part of my daily life, I learned to become creative and flexible when looking for places to pray. In extreme cases, I have prayed in parking lots and under a set of stairs. Thus, seeing the spacious prayer room in the MSA Suite at Brandeis University was a nice surprise. The availability of a prayer room as well as an ablution space has made my university experience a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
Praying five times a day inevitably affects every aspect of scheduling my day. It's not an issue when choosing classes, since I am usually able to pray during a time outside of class. However, last semester, I had to take a final exam for a class that started before the third prayer of the day and ended after the time for that prayer had passed. Due to this conflict, a couple of days before the exam, I spoke to my professor, who was very understanding.
[Midway through] the final exam, I took a 10-minute break in the professor's room and prayed there, since going to the official prayer room on campus would have taken up more of my time. I feel blessed to know that I have understanding professors who are not only very helpful, but who also respect my beliefs and needs.
Having a community with other Muslim students on campus at Brandeis University, as well as any university campus, is important because it allows for the establishment of interfaith dialogue events as well as a voice for Muslim students. As a minority on campus, I feel it is just as important for me to speak on my own behalf as a Muslim as it is to listen to others and their stories and perspectives.
It is essential to have a mutual dialogue with students of other faiths and belief systems, as that is the key to working toward a greater understanding of one another and a peaceful coexistence. Through increasing our understanding of one another, we are able to view each other on a human level and support each other through difficulties.
Hatice asked that she only be identified by her first name.