Starting University

By Shazia Giny

 

University is a place where you will Insha’Allah learn a great deal of new skills and knowledge independently. However to make the most of this you will also be expected to handle a lot more responsibility than at school and college.

So… Be organized and keep well informed!

 

It is essential to plan and be prepared before taking on any important task in life. This will ensure that the results you hope to achieve are made that little bit easier to attain, Insha’Allah.

So here are a couple of things to think about prior to starting your further studies:

Travel

Make sure that you have looked up at least two different routes, or even modes of transport (if possible), which will take you from home to university. This should help for when your lecturer has decided to organise a mid-term test at 9am on a day where there are transport strikes or delayed/cancelled journeys! :S

Hint: Don’t rely on other people’s common sense… Pray to Allah and be prepared for anything!

 

Accommodation

If your thinking about living away from home, discuss this with your parents and fellow Ahmadi sisters. This is an important decision which has to be taken jointly with your parents. If you decide to live at university, speak to your university’s Admissions Office well in advance (or anyone who can transfer you to the right department) about getting student accommodation.  Give yourself and the university enough time to organise female only accommodation and any other requirements that you might have (separate shower and cooking facilities etc.).

It might be a good idea to ask some current students about the university’s accommodation when attending open days, or even ask the organisers for a tour of student halls.

If you’re looking for private accommodation again speak to current students if possible about their choices.

It would be advisable to find somewhere safe with good transport links to the university. Useful also would be finding somewhere close enough to the university, so that in the RARE instance that you wake up 30 minutes before your Monday morning lecture, you might still be able to get there on time!

In general reducing your travelling distance from university as much as possible will increase the hours of study you can get in… and of course extra time for nawafil J

If you’re living at home with the parents… Be grateful for your mums hot food and your dads wise words.. and pray for them!! You can only appreciate how fortunate it is to live at home when it comes to stressful exam times!

 

Study Materials

Gone are the days of brightly coloured gel pens and rubbers that smell of fruit!

These study materials are the core text books recommended and used by your lecturers for each of your modules. These you will need to buy yourselves unless otherwise told, along with your note books etc. But play things smart, there may be a few copies in the libaray, get your hands on them early by looking up the books on your university library catalogue!

Some lecturers may also prescribe pre-reading some chapter of your text book before starting university, so it would be wise to buy your books a few weeks beforehand if you can.

It is also useful to have a diary for noting down dates for all the important events and other pieces of information given out during your first term at university.

 

Finance

Do not leave this to the last minute!

As soon as you have your provisional offers from your selected universities you should begin setting up your student finance support.

Follow the relevant links on the website below to seek further information regarding university financing, or to set up your student finance click ‘how to apply’.

https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/overview

Once your results are out and your university place is confirmed make sure you complete and submit your student finance applications with plenty of time before university begins. This will give your enough time to provide further information to student finance if necessary.

 

As well as setting up the funding for university you should be mindful of how you spend it, or intend to.

As Ahmadi Muslims we are advised constantly to remember the importance of sacrifice and doing good works to please Allah.

As well as reading prayer and sacrificing our time to help those in need, we are also required to make financial sacrifice. This not only to helps those less fortunate than us but also instils a sense of humility and gratitude within us, for what Allah has blessed us with.

Thus we should remember our chandas as part of our university budget.

Here are some other things you may need to budget before starting university:

Lajna Chanda, Waqf-e-Jadid, Tehrik-e-Jadid

University is a good time to get into the habit of paying these yourselves rather than relying on parents and relatives to pay on your behalf. This will bring your attention to why you contribute to these blessed schemes and will Insha’Allah increase your faith.

Tip: Set aside small amounts for payment at the start of each month and put reminders on your calendar before university begins.

Travel/driving costs

Tip: When sorting out your travel arrangements for university look out for any offers/deals that your local transport agencies offer.  I.e. in London, full times students may be able to get a reduced weekly travel ticket on an Oyster Card. Details below:

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/students-and-children/18-student?intcmp=1768

Food

It is very easy to end up spending a great deal on snacks and on-the-go meals from your local shops. This will be an important part of your budget!

Tip: Taking a bit of time out to make your lunch at home the night before is likely to be cheaper and more importantly a lot healthier!

Textbooks/stationary/printing

Just like chanda, food and travel, your textbooks are a necessary spend, so be sure to include this in your budget.

Tip: You may find that the same texts books sold in your libraries are cheaper online or if you buy them from students in the year above. Ask your course officers/module co-coordinators if they can send an email out on your behalf. It might also be useful to ask your lecturers if the previous editions (far cheaper) are usable for the module.

Other expenses

These might include Mobile Phone bills, Joining Societies etc.

 

Challenges on starting university

At university you may be faced with some personal or social challenges, including:

Increased responsibility & independence

  • Unlike at school or college you will not have a set teacher constantly reminding you to complete your work. It is likely that your lecturers will set ‘homework’ in the form of self-assessments and extra reading; it won’t be collected in at the start of each lecture and handed back with a ‘well done’ sticker!
  • In the same way you won’t always be told by lecturers if a lesson has been cancelled; there has been a room change; you are required to do extra reading; when your next class test will be or whether a society you’ve joined is holding a meeting in the next 10 minutes!
  • Whether you are living at home or living away from home during university, you may find yourselves in situations whereby the love, protection and experience of your parents is no longer immediately available. Instead you are surrounded by the excited and at times naïve and careless judgment of your peers.

What should you do?

  • Although a daunting prospect at first. Always turn to Allah Almighty, He is our Guide and our Protector.  He is the All-Powerful and the answerer of prayers, how lovingly does Allah Almighty say “‘I am near. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me. So they should hearken to Me and believe in Me, that they may follow the right way.” (Holy Qur’an Ch2:V187). Remember the principles by which you live your life. The characteristics that define your character – truth, honesty, justice, chastity, discipline, humility, sanctity…
  • Always try to remember why you are at university. As Muslims we are blessed to have been directly guided by Allah Ta’ala on every matter in life; in the Holy Quran. Each instruction serves a purpose, and provides a benefit should we adhere to it. When the Holy Quran “O my Lord, increase me in knowledge.” (Ch2-:V115) our going to university is in response to this verse. Therefore, we should try to keep our focus on this main objective.
  • Keeping this in mind, it should then become easier to stay on top of your work and reading, which will save you from panicking at the last minute. Instead you will be able to enjoy your learning experience at university, and will Insha’Allah reap the benefits of your effort on results day!
  • In addition, make sure you check your lecture notes and study material in advance. These will likely have been uploaded for you online, on your university student account (Moodle), to read before or after lectures.
  • You should also regularly check your email accounts, notice boards and Moodle for notices of room changes, extra reading or cancelled lectures/group meetings etc. You will find that some information will be given by your lecturers, some by your course officers and, if relating to societies, then by the society president themselves. It will be down to you to know who the information should be coming from and where to receive it, so keep a pen and paper ready to take notes in the first week!
  • It would be useful to draw up a timetable to manage your work and other responsibilities. This should help whether you are living at home or away from home. Things to include would be: lecture time, self-reading/study time, Jamaat events and socials, university events and society meetings.
  • Remember to include the things which are already part of our normal daily lives; Namaz/prayer, meal time (cooking included) and exercise.
  • Be realistic with your timetable and if there are events, socials or meetings that you can’t attend because of study, don’t force your time table to make time! Pray to Allah and Insha’Allah a similar opportunity will come round again.
  • Something to always remember is regardless of where you are and who you are with, the most perfect advice and guidance will always come from our best Friend, Allah.
  • Allah Tallah loves His creation more than a mother loves her child. If we remember this, we will always know whether the advice in the Holy Quran will help us progress, or the advice of a so-called friend who seems to advise you against the morals of your faith.
  • My personal advice to you: Be strong and make your decisions based on the guidance in the Quran, instead of following the crowd and letting peer pressure get the better of you.

 

Settling into a new environment/culture

  • At university everything is constantly changing; your lecturers, module topics, lecture rooms, friendship groups, sources of information, food in the canteen (that one’s a relief!). Nothing seems the same, and nothing seems to provide certainty or security which can be a bit daunting.
  • You may also have the odd late lecture that starts at 4pm, 5pm or even 6pm (though in first year this is unlikely), which means travelling home so late can be a worrying experience.

What to do?

  • Allow yourself time to settle into the new environment. If its worrying for you it’s likely that it’s worrying for everyone else around you (no matter how loud and friendly people may seem!). You’re all learning together.
  • If you have late lecturers, inform parents or housemates before you leave for uni. Find out if other girls are taking the same route home as you, and keep the safest and quickest route in mind. Check the latest bus/train/tube/tram times and charge your phones the night before! Make sure you keep all valuables secured in a zip pocket and out of sight when walking the streets. As always continue yours prayers on your travels and Insha’Allah you will be fine :).

 

 

A completely new group of friends

 

  • We can all probably remember the feeling of starting at a new school for the first time. Well that what it’s like at university for about the first week or so.
  • You’ll have left your college friends and will be starting the next stage of your journey in life. You’ll want to make sure that those who you choose to spend your free time with during lectures are of a good nature, and have a similar lifestyle or understanding of moral values as you.
  • So as you start university, pray to Allah Almighty that He may bestow you with righteous company and make this new journey easy for you. Then watch how our dearest Allah Meyahs’s blessings rain down upon you 🙂 InshAllah
  • Be prepared for friendship groups to change. True friends are easy to keep and require minimal effort. The reason? Allah brings them into our lives and makes them a comfort for us. If you find that you have to change who you are and what you believe in order to keep a friend close, it’s more likely that your friendship will become a hindrance and a source of harm rather than a source of comfort.
  • Introduce yourself to others in your lecture or tutor group, but stick to making female friends. Be careful not to be influenced by the seemingly attractive mixed social environment that others may be used to. Always listen to your heart as it will guide you and make you feel uneasy in inappropriate circumstances. If ever you feel you are doing anything that you need to can’t tell your parents about or you have to hide, move away super super quick! It’s definitely a step in the wrong direction.
  • Get involved with respected societies at university. Don’t be afraid to take part in different aspects of university life. Observing purdah is what should give us confidence to know how to behave in each situation and environment. As long as we hold fast to this we will Insha’Allah excel in our studies, as well as become an example to our peers of a strong, intelligent and respectable woman .
  • Finally, sign up to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Student Association (by emailing  amwsa@lajnauk.org) and get in touch with your fellow Ahmadi sisters… we’re here for you! Just like other societies at university we hold educational and social events, with the benefit that it is women only… so you can attend every event!! 😀

 

 

Fresher’s Week and the Fresher’s Fair

The purpose of the fresher’s week is to:

  • Allow all the new students to get registered to the different societies of their interest
  • Give the students an idea of what their lecturers might be like
  • Allow everyone to get settled into their accommodation
  • Give the students time to get their timetables, maps and books sorted out.

1) How will it help?

  • This first week will Insha’Allah help you to familiarise yourself with the university grounds and your student halls (for some). You will have the chance to introduce yourself to your fellow course group, possibly at an induction session with your course officers, or then throughout the week at other scheduled events and activities. These events may include ‘taster lectures’, tours around the university, online student account set-up sessions or of course the fresher’s fair. It will also be a good opportunity for you to get any of your queries and questions answered before term starts.

2) Fresher’s Fair

  • The fresher’s fair is where all the universities’ societies come to present their ideas and details of their activities, and help you to sign up. Often there are lots of freebies and student offers handed out; some for use within the university and some for local food and stationary shops- so keep an eye out!
  • Everyone will be out to impress and persuade you to sign up to their respective society. It is easy to get carried away and sign up to more than you can commit to. So be sure to sign up to those that catch your fancy, but be careful to make sure they will provide ease for you to remain steadfast on your faith. Remember, you also need to make sure you have enough time to take part in what you sign up for! Remember you can always cancel;)
  • Tips: Don’t be fooled by the exciting freebies.. make sure you take your time to find out what the society does, and have a look on the university website beforehand for any comments and events relating to the society so that you are prepared.