College is a crossroads in so many ways: academically and spiritually. We often focus on the former – and rightly so- but often we ignore the latter. Spirituality is just as important, if not more important, that one’s academic studies. If you are lacking spiritual solace, your academics will falter. Even university professors agree: faith is at the forefront of maintaining tranquility during the tumultuous college years. So, how can you maintain – or develop- spirituality while in college?
First off, faith and religion are two distinct entities. To have faith is to hold a steadfast belief in a (something); to have religion is to adhere to an existing doctrine. One can have his or her faith manifest itself in religion, but to have faith does not necessitate religiosity.
It is the nature of man to have faith. He yearns to believe in an unwavering entity, whose indefinite presence transcends his ephemeral existence. For millennia, this entity has manifested itself in the shape of religion; the mold of God has been the source of solace for the poor and the rich, the desolate and the wealthy.
And yet, faith manifests itself in more ways than just religion. One can have faith in her family, that they will be steadfast in their commitment to her well-being. Faith also can be found in material goods; a little money never let anyone down, right?
For the sake of this article, we must analyze how to maintain spirituality on college campuses. As a Muslim, there are several obstacles that obstruct my practicing my faith: finding Halal food to eat, praying on time, and facing at times overt Islamophobia. My roommate, an Orthodox Jew, faces similar issues. In fact, it is quite difficult to maintain religiosity on campus, unless you are adamant in your beliefs. After all, Mommy and Daddy aren’t there to watch over you 24/7!
How can we overcome such barriers, you ask?
Firstly, find individuals who share your zeal for spirituality. Note that I used the word spirituality: the friends group you will make does not necessarily need to be composed of people who share your faith. In fact, forming a diverse, interfaith cohort will undoubtedly strengthen your faith and increase your passion for it. Even amongst one particular faith, you will find a vast spectrum of individuals; religion rarely manifests itself identically.
Next, I recommend planning a schedule for yourself. Prolonged idleness can only breed discontent and disharmony. Therefore, it is imperative that you plan out when and where you will go, so as to maximize your academic – and more importantly your spiritual- performance. If you are productive, you will find you have a lot of time to relax and give yourself a much needed spiritual break.
Lastly, I highly recommend pursuing leadership positions on campus. The best way to dispel myths about your faith (Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, etc.) is making your face known on campus (in a positive light, of course). When students see that their student government president, for example, is a Muslim, they will realize that you are just like them. Also, when you are in a position of relative power, you can make policies that will aid students on their quest for spirituality.