If you’re a new student just starting university

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Zehra Sasal

Ottawa, ON.

Look at that. Summer is already over and I am drowning in assignments before I even know it. Well, school has that odd way of making you miss it over the summer and once you start, you also start counting the days left until it’s over again. If you are a Muslim Canadian like I am, school can bring just more than assignments to your life. Throughout university, in my classes I was either the only girl in a hijab or one of the few. It is hard to miss the way teachers behave towards you and others. You can see them a little afraid to make eye contact with you first. Whenever the word “religion”, “God”, “immigrants” are mentioned, you see them looking at the whole class but just skipping your eyes. I stopped being an immigrant long ago, but my face will always be the image of “the other” I guess. It takes some time before you stand out with your personality just like everyone else rather than your clothing. This is usually the case for me. Especially in my evolution courses, I have to usually go for an extra effort to make my teachers and peers realize that no, I am not here to argue. I am here to learn and form my own opinion. And if I ever will voice my opinion, it will always be respectful and not in an argument tone, ever. After this, you just feel like everything finds its own place. Takes time, but it happens.

Well, can we only blame the people around us for their scared image of “the other” or “the hijab”? I don’t think so. We usually expect people to stop judging, to stop thinking that not all Muslims are isis and even isis doesn’t represent Muslims. Yet, if we don’t provide them with another image, how is it right to expect them to believe that I am just another student in hijab, no different than the pretty girl with blond hair sitting next to me? It is not only in Western countries. In every country, there is an image of the other, and that is a scary one. People are afraid of what they don’t know. They are afraid of rumors. They are afraid of what their media portrays as scary.

I can say that I am pretty lucky to call myself a Canadian. Here, regardless of their differences people always seem to behave with respect. I have never had one person come up to me and disrespect me for the way I dress even though I knew they didn’t like it. I have also witnessed that it doesn’t take long for people to connect once people focus on each other’s similarities rather than differences. All it takes is a bit of smile, some dialogue and a good heart.

So if you’re a new student just starting university, and also have the hijab on just keep this in mind; you will have some tough days and some good days. But at the end, there is nothing a good heart, a solid dialogue and a cup of tea cannot resolve! Enjoy your college days while they last!

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