For the thousands of Saudi students, who pursue their higher studies in foreign universities, fasting in Ramadan is a big challenge. Those in Western countries have to fast 16 to 18 hours while studying at classrooms or engaging in project works.
These young Saudi men and women miss their Ramadan customs and traditions when their families exchange visits, mothers prepare special dishes, friends engage in traditional games and people go to mosques for special night-time prayers.
“I will be spending my Ramadan this time in a foreign country for the first time, with English language students from other countries,” said Hanan Al-Hindi, who is one of King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship students in the United States.
She said the teachers and colleagues at the English language institute understand the lifestyle of Muslims during Ramadan. “They know the sanctity of Ramadan in the hearts and minds of Muslims,” she told Al-Watan Arabic daily.
Al-Hindi said most non-Muslim students do not eat or drink in classrooms in front of their Muslim mates. “Some teachers discuss with Muslim students the customs and traditions of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr,” she said.
According to Al-Hindi, spending Ramadan in a foreign country is a difficult experience. “First of all, we have to study while fasting for 18 hours, half of these hours students generally spend in classrooms and the rest in completing home work. We also have to find time for preparing breakfast,” she pointed out.
She is relieved to know that the Saudi Students Club in the US holds iftar parties every week and organizes Islamic lectures. Some Saudi families arrange iftar parties, creating a Ramadan atmosphere in the United States.
Abdullah Al-Ahmadi, a student at the University of Illinois, said those who are accustomed to spending Ramadan in Saudi Arabia would feel bad when they find themselves in a foreign country during the holy month. “In foreign countries we rarely enjoy those spiritual feelings.”
Al-Ahmadi added: “I miss listening to the beautiful sound of adhan (the call for prayer), the melodious reading of the Qur’an during Taraweeh prayers and watching young men distribute dates and water bottles at traffic points with a smile.”
He said most teachers in American universities and educational institutions consider the special situation of Muslims during Ramadan and do not put extra pressure on them.
“Some of them will remind us that fasting in Ramadan was ordained to make us strong and we should be extra active,” he pointed out.
For Azzan Hamad Al-Khoraim, who studies in Florida, Ramadan in a foreign country is a nice experience. “Muslim students often gather at local mosques for iftar. Some philanthropists arrange iftar parties every day during the holy month,” he pointed out.