Humans of CSE March

Humans of CSE March

As the sacred month of Ramadan unfolds, Muslims worldwide embark on a journey of spiritual reflection, self-discipline and increased devotion to worship. Fasting from dawn until sunset, individuals seek to draw closer to Allah, deepening their faith and seeking forgiveness for past sins. Ramadan is not only a period of personal growth but also a time to acknowledge and appreciate the blessings bestowed upon them, encouraging acts of charity and compassion towards those less fortunate. On behalf of UNSW CSESoc, the Outreach portfolio extends heartfelt wishes to our Muslim students for a blessed Ramadan filled with peace, joy and profound spiritual growth. In this edition, we have the privilege of interviewing a 2nd year Computer Science/Economics student who shares her experiences.

Could you please share some highlights from your experience studying computer science at UNSW?

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Studying computer science at UNSW has definitely been a rollercoaster. I think it’s pretty well-known that it’s not an easy degree! Computer science was a completely new skill for me and till now, there are many instances where I still struggle to wrap my head around everything. However, it’s important to note that there are so many support services that are available to you. The lecturers and tutors themselves are so helpful and love to answer any of your questions. Furthermore, CSESoc holds many events where you can learn more about the field and also make friends that help you along the way! The best parts of studying computer science has been going through everything with my friends. If I were to give advice to my younger self, I would say to not compare myself to other students and to just go at my own pace. It can be really daunting to see other students understand a certain concept easily while it took me a much longer time, but it’s not a competition! Learning is a process and it takes time and practice, so just be patient with yourself and be confident that you will succeed.

With March marking the beginning of Ramadan, do you have any tips on effectively balancing study commitments with observing Ramadan?

With Ramadan being of great significance, it can be tempting to prioritise religious practices over attending classes, but I think it’s important to remember that seeking knowledge and learning from your classes is a form of worship itself! Everytime you sit in a lecture or tutorial, God is rewarding you for that. So my advice is to ensure that you’re not neglecting your studies! After your classes, I recommend going to the prayer rooms and performing your prayers or reading the Quran as these are also essential parts of Ramadan. That way, you have a good balance of studying and observing the required religious practices. The aim of Ramadan is to increase your good deeds and draw closer to God, and something as simple as smiling at another person is a good deed. It’s clear that even things you do day to day also help you observe Ramadan. Islam is a simple religion and Allah sees your struggles and determination to balance the important aspects of your life, so keep it easy and just try your best :).

How was your experience using prayer rooms on campus, and were they easily accessible for you as a student?

Having prayer rooms that are available on campus has been extremely helpful to me as a muslim student. They facilitate quiet spaces to conduct my prayers and be around individuals who are similar to me, allowing me to make like-minded friends in the process! There is one prayer room located conveniently on each end of uni, one on level 3 of the square-house and the other in the biological sciences (north) building. These locations are useful as anyone can access them depending on if you are on lower or upper campus. These rooms are always left clean and quiet, and allow me to stay on top of my prayers while being at uni!

More details about the UNSW prayer rooms courtesy to UNSW’s Muslim Students’ Association’s Survival Guide, Page 3

Were there instances where you had to adjust your schedule to accommodate prayer times or fasting during classes?

Honestly, there hasn’t been a time where I struggled with fasting during classes as it is something that I'm quite used to. Last year, I had a class that ended when I had to break my fast. I always brought food with me that day so I could break my fast on campus and then headed straight to the prayer room for the sunset prayer. Although I prefer to break my fast at home with my family, it was just one day that I couldn’t and there’s no religious issue with that at all! Typically I schedule my classes around prayer times but in the case that my class occurs during a prayer time, it is easy for me to head to the nearest prayer room on campus after class as they are easily accessible.

Are there any organisations or communities at UNSW that you would recommend for Muslim students seeking support and connection?

I would say that the best organisation that can connect you with other young muslim students is the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA). They often hold many events for anyone who is muslim or even just interested in learning more about Islam! To make more friends at uni, joining societies is a good step, but it can sometimes be hard to find societies that align with my values as a muslim. That’s why I recommend the MSA as you can engage in events and meet new people while still staying true to your principles. Whether you need a helping hand at uni or simply want to hang out with others outside of class, the MSA is a good place to find what you need. Examples of what you can expect to see are game nights, sports events, BBQs, islamic lectures, fundraisers, and annual welcome nights for new students!

When planning your class schedule, how did you ensure that you could observe your religious practices while still attending required sessions?

It can be difficult sometimes to organise class schedules around religious practices such as prayer times, which is an important aspect of a Muslim’s life. What I aim to do when planning my classes is enrolling for tutorials that occur either before or after a certain prayer time so I have enough time to go to the prayer room. If that can’t happen and my class occurs during a prayer time, I try to pick a class that won’t make me too late for my prayers! During Ramadan, I ensure that my classes are throughout the day so I can get home in time to break my fast and undertake my other religious duties. This way, I can attend all my classes comfortably knowing that I’m not compromising any of my religious obligations.

If you fear that you could miss a prayer because your class is long and runs through the prayer time, don’t be shy to ask your tutor if you could step out for a few minutes and find an empty room to pray in!

For more useful resources:

UNSW’s Muslim Students’ Association Survival Guide - Check out UNSW's Muslim Students' Association Survival Guide for essential tips and support!

CSESoc Discord - A great place to ask questions and get advice from fellow students!

UNSW Subreddit - This is not CSESoc affiliated, however it is popular amongst students when seeking useful advice that may have been asked by past students in subreddits. Use at your own discretion!

CSESoc Outreach aims to release monthly articles that highlight the diverse experiences of students. We invite you to submit feedback or share your own insights through the form. Your stories, advice or perspectives could be invaluable to someone navigating university life.

Joyce He & Sapphire Wildie