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I am a Muslim Woman Who Chose to Attend a Catholic University

I am a Muslim Woman Who Chose to Attend a Catholic University

This article was originally written for Fresh U by Aleeha Shah. It has been given minor edits before re-posting.

Regardless of how early you begin, the college process is never easy. First, there are all the dreadful applications, then the essays, then the countless hours refreshing the decision page anxiously awaiting the letter you’ve worked so hard for. Until finally, you get the email in the middle of class, containing the decision that could possibly make or break your future plans. For me, the process was exactly like this.

When I first began applying for college, I had a clear image of what I wanted. I was going to go to university with my best friend, a school a city away from my family so I could move out without being too far away. There, I was going to pursue a degree in chemistry and take advantage of as many internships as I could before attending medical school. However, this dream soon came to a halt when I received my decision. While I was not technically rejected, the program I was offered (the Coordinated Admission Program) did not guarantee I would get the degree I wanted. So, after thinking about it for a long time, I decided I wanted to attend a school where my direction was certain, that there was no unnecessary stress for something I may or may not even get.

This narrowed down my options to two schools, both on different spectrums in terms of structure and education. One, a public state school with a huge campus and auditorium-sized classes. Not to mention the thousands of students. The other, a private Catholic school with a smaller campus and classes averaging 25 students. The student population was also significantly smaller. Both schools had aspects I wanted. However, I could only choose one. I spoke to counselors, friends and family members. I visited campuses. After months of deliberation, I chose.

“Where are you going to college?” The dreadful question everyone asked finally had a response that wasn’t, “I don’t know yet.” I proudly stated that I was going to be attending the private school. Some people were happy for me, congratulating me with smiles and hugs. On the other hand, some people were confused as to why I would go to a Catholic school when I’m clearly not Catholic. And that is clear. I mean, I wear a headscarf. But I didn’t mind the religious aspect of the school. There were so many benefits that came with choosing this university.

Of course, these benefits included location and class size. Moreover, I received many scholarships which make paying for college much easier. As a private school, there is also lots of access and availability of equipment because of the smaller classes. This will help me in the future: I will have lots of experience working with materials that I use in my career.

Spiritually, I don’t think the differing religious beliefs will be a significant challenge. Yes, students are required to take religious courses, however, there are many topics from which to choose. Although I am Muslim, and Muslims and Catholics do not share the same beliefs, there are core values we do share. Additionally, I like how there is a spiritual aspect in the structure of the school because it provides a path, and even if I am not Catholic, I can still grow as a Muslim. The school has publicly asserted that they are a school of diversity and encourage people of all beliefs to attend their school. At the end of their four years, students will have grown as a person, whether or not they share the spiritual beliefs that encompass the traditional school. I am actually looking forward to it, as I am interested in learning more about the Catholic belief system in relation to my own.

Of course, there is a part of me that fears judgment, however based on their current students and my experience on campus, I do not believe it will be hard for me to adjust. We live in a country that is full of diversity, comprised of many different races and faiths. A time where a Muslim can confidently attend a Catholic school shows just how far we have come as a society. We are now more inclusive and open-minded, important traits to have as a civilization. I am excited to see what this new chapter of life brings me, and look forward to learning about myself more— mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Related:

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