International student guide: How to survive Ramadan while away from home

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By AMANDA JOO

One of the most holy months in Islam has kicked off this week, Ramadan.

Family members and friends gather between May 6 and June 4 to enjoy iftar (the evening meal to break fast at sunset) and put extra efforts on purifying their souls.

But for international students observing Ramadan away from home, homesickness can be greater during this month.

If you are a first year student and spending Ramadan by yourself for the first time, you might face various hurdles.

Here are some tips from students who have previously done Ramadan away from home.

How can I wake up on time for suhoor (the meal before sunrise) and prayer?

An Omani student studying Business at Monash University, Aisha Alriyami, said it is not difficult to wake up early once you get used to it.

Ms Alriyami said a good option is eating at around 1am, sleeping until around 8am and then going to university.

Saif Rajwanny, an Indian student studying Sports Management at Deakin University, said using the time difference between Melbourne and India is another good way to deal with the fear of missing the first morning prayer.

Saif Rajwanny praying in his lounge with his tasbih (string of beads). PHOTO: Amanda Joo.

“I ask my mum or my sister to call me at 4:30am Australian local time as my home is about 4.5 hours behind Australian time,” Mr Rajwanny said.

“It’s midnight (in India) and my family is awake generally at that time so they call and wake me up.”

Which food should I get during fast? Especially when I am a caffeine-fuelled university student.

Fast food and instant meals are so tempting when you have work and assignments due, or if you are not confident cooking.

Mr Rajwanny said “junk food after long fast would spoil your stomach with only high fat” and it is essential to “make sure sufficient amount of carbs and protein” are part of your diet.

Alishah Samnani, a Pakistani student studying Film and Screen at Monash University, suggested breaking the fast with something lighter, such as dates.

Dates are Middle Eastern fruits, meaning richness and faith and beloved during Ramadan. PHOTO: Freepik.

“Rather than jumping straight to meal, I usually break my fast either with banana or some fruits,” Mr Samnani said.

Ms Alriyami suggested reducing coffee intake, or any kinds of caffeine, a week before Ramadan begins.

“My most important thing is a cup of coffee in the morning, so maybe the first two or three days I’ll feel like a headache, but I’ll get used to it.”

How can I work out while fasting?

Working out and playing sports is still possible during Ramadan.

Mr Samnani said exercising at night is the best option, especially as a student, but exercising during the day is not impossible.

Mr Samnani spends his day doing university assignments or working, before going to the gym at around 1am.

“My national cricket team players fast, and play cricket, during Ramadan so some people do it. It really depends on person to person.”

Mr Rajwanny also exercises during the night.

“I try to go to 24 hour gym and work out at 3am, so I can get hydrated while and after gymming,” he said.

How to manage your time for prayer and follow up the sunrise and sunset?

Unlike in Islamic countries, Melbourne does not have a public call to indicate prayer time. Therefore smartphone apps can be useful in letting you know the time to pray and Qibla (the direction of Mecca, Saudi Arabia).

Apps like Athan tell you the direction of Mecca and allow you to set alarms for prayer times. PHOTO: Amanda Joo.

What if I miss my home too much? Should I fly back in the middle of week 9?

Homesickness can become prevalent during Ramadan, but it is possible to get through it.

“It minimises the feeling that you’re alone if you stick to your friends. Over here, friends can be new family,” Ms Alriyami said.

Mr Rajwanny said it’s all about how well you are prepared and control your emotions.

“It took me a while to realise that I’m apart from my family. I still wanted to celebrate with my family,” he said.

“The more quickly you realise you have got to manage everything, the easier to do it.”

What if I can’t be bothered cooking meals everyday?

Juggling study, work, shopping, cooking and cleaning by yourself is never easy, but preparing weekly meals during Ramadan might help make your life easier.

Monash university Islamic Society (MUIS) hosts two main grand iftar on May 15 and 23.

MUIS also hosts Taraweeh prayer at the Beddoe Mosque in Clayton, and a post-eid gathering.

More information about MUIS events to come via Facebook.

Ramadan Mubarak!