A Muslim student in Adelaide

The dome of a mosque.

So here's my experience studying abroad as a Muslim.

Apart from experiencing the cultural differences in Australia, I’ve also experienced what it’s like living here as a Muslim woman who came from a largely Muslim-populated country. Unsurprisingly – much like every other experience one will go through in life – I’ve faced a couple of ups and downs, but it hasn’t been too difficult adjusting to my new life here.

So, I thought I’d share with you a little bit about how it’s been being a Muslim international student in Adelaide.

It’s exciting meeting other Muslims
When you’re moving to a new country, especially one where Islam is in the minority, it’s always exciting to meet someone who is a Muslim too! I think engaging with one’s own community is not only vital to your social wellbeing but getting to know fellow Muslims who were born here or have lived here for a long time has also made navigating life in Australia as a Muslim so much easier. 

It’s nice to know you have friends who know where the best halal restaurants are and when Ramadhan will begin/end. Oh, and getting invited for Iftar at their houses is always a bonus!

Finding halal food isn’t too hard
That was one of my concerns before coming to Adelaide, knowing that it’s a pretty small city with an even smaller Muslim population as compared to, say, Melbourne or Sydney or Perth. But to my delight, numerous halal restaurants have popped up since I first visited 9 years ago and with variety too from Malaysian food to Korean, Australian and more. My favourite are the chicken skewers from Afghan Charcoal Kebab house on Hindley!

Plus, the rise in vegan restaurants (and restaurants with vegan options) has also made eating easier and accessible. I’ve become an honorary and occasional vegan/vegetarian since coming here. 

Eid can be a bit lonely and depressing 
Of course, celebrating Eid here will never be the same as back home with the most important part missing – my family. Partaking in some of the practices and traditions tied to Eid is also made difficult sometimes, especially when Eid falls on a school day and I have to spend my Eid in class but as they say, Syawal is a month, so you’ll definitely have the chance to celebrate.

And as I have more Muslim friends now than I did back in my first year, I get to experience the festive feeling a lot more with heaps of open houses to attend and classic Malay raya food to eat! 

Fasting is made easier
On the flip side, the hours I spend fasting during Ramadhan are much shorter as the month usually falls in winter and with a colder season means I’m not constantly made thirsty by the unbearable heat as I would back home in Malaysia.

You miss the sound of the prayer calls 
I live near the local mosque back home so we would hear the Azan (call to prayer) every time but I can’t say the same here as I live in the city. It’s one of those things where you won’t realise how much you miss it until you no longer have it – I’ve definitely come to appreciate it more. 

Socialising challenges
I learnt very quickly of the huge drinking culture here in Australia with most of the major law school events centring around alcohol and having to turn down invitations to the bar or club. 

But that doesn’t mean that my chances to socialise are completely gone – so far, I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been understanding and accommodating to my needs, we’d just end up choosing a different place to hang out and if there are activities that I can’t partake in because it involves mainly drinking then hey, I’ll just go to some other event. No biggie! There are plenty of Muslim-friendly events held by the uni and community at large.

It's inevitable that you’ll face some challenges here and there as you venture out of your comfort zone. I think that’s what makes the journey worthwhile and you, an even more open-minded and knowledgeable person!

Tagged in What messes with your head, muslim, islam, international student, study abroad, Experience