Culture Combustion

School to university was the biggest jump I’ve made so far in life. My entire family and all of my friends had given me advice to make the transition as smooth as possible (so as to be better prepared once I start.)

It all sounded a lot like this:

‘It’s so much harder than school – but so much better.’

‘You meet such great people.’

‘You thought HSC was hard? Try uni, it’s quadruple the pressure.’


I’ve been at university for three days now and, sure, I can see where they were all going with that.


But what I wasn’t prepared for was the craziest culture clash that exploded in my face.


I guess I’m in no position to say that my faith is strong or that my faith is weak. The reason why I say this is because if I were to determine how faithful I was to my religion, it would subconsciously be in relative measurement to those who believe in Islam surrounding me.


I went to an Islamic school for thirteen years. That means I barely ever had to explain what I ate, what hand I ate with, why I wore this and why I didn’t wear that… We Muslims were all in the same boat – we subconsciously understood each other without ever needing to try to understand each other.


We prayed together, we fasted together, we fixed our headscarves together, we faced cruel media backlash together. We were a team.


For thirteen years, it made life oh-so-convenient.


Now that I’ve retired from the team that had my back for so long, swimming in foreign seas feels… disorienting.


Now that I’m in university, I’ve realised just how difficult being a Sydney resident is whilst simultaneously being a Muslim, too. Where am I supposed to draw the line and how thick is the line supposed to be drawn?


Female to male contact is inevitable, I now realise. I can’t stop the guy next to me in the lecture room from wanting to shake my hand and I’m not strong enough to refuse his polite request. How can I be the conservative Muslim I was raised to be without succumbing to the pressures of customary Western courtesy?

This, of course, is just a small example of the inner conflict that’s been eating at me for the past few days.


So, for the next five years, I just know I’m going to be consumed by the contrasting lifestyles that I will have to abide by to be classified as… an Australian Muslim. To be classified as normal. 

by Rayane Tamer

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