Aotearoa is a country of diversity and acceptance. Since I was 10, I was taught at North East Valley Normal School and Dunedin North Intermediate to befriend everyone, especially people who are different than me. I have grown to love different cultures and enjoy listening to their stories. There is kindness and also smiles everywhere I go; from strangers I meet on the bus to the random people on the streets.
Being a Muslim student here was never an issue. Sure, I stand out a lot more than others for wearing a hijab on my head, especially the colorful ones but my days are just like every other student! I drag myself out of bed in the morning, so I don’t miss my 9am classes, I stay up late at the central library to finish off an assignment that is due that week, I go to club meetings and poetry readings, and the best part of University life; hanging out with my best friends!
In fact, as a Muslim student, I feel very welcomed and accepted especially for all the services my university and the town provides for the people of the Islamic faith;
- The Muslim prayer rooms on campus! It eases Muslim students to perform our beliefs in-between classes, and also a quiet place to unwind after a hectic day.
- Halal food is available at university cafes and restaurants around town. It’s very convenient whenever I don’t have time to prepare food from home (assignments and exam weeks!).
- Also halal meat can be easily found at the supermarkets. It really helps whenever I feel the crave to cook Malaysian dishes and cure my homesickness!
- The Muslim University Students’ Association (MUSA) at the University of Otago, where we get together and mingle around. Every year there are programs like the Islamic Awareness Week, to promote the awareness of my religion.
- Islamic centres and mosques for the growing population of Muslims in New Zealand! Just like the ones back home - except the people who go here are very diverse, as we all come from different backgrounds.
- Muslim chaplaincy service on the university campus for spiritual support!
With all that being said, I am blessed to be a Muslim studying in New Zealand. I am comfortable embracing my faith and am respected by the community. I stand that New Zealand will always be home for me, and a beautiful place to study!