I am Nihad Ashraf from Zambia, East Africa and I am currently an MA student at the Faculty of Economics and Business, IIIU. It is my first time to spend Ramadhan in Indonesia and this new experience has been unexpectedly wonderful.

Zambia, being a minority Muslim country, doesn’t really give the Ramadhan atmosphere as it is here in Indonesia. Indonesia, being a nation with majority of Muslims, has added extra enjoyment to feel and perceive this month.

The Ramadhan preparation begins two or three months prior to its arrival in Zambia. The women prepare some snacks two months before Ramadhan and freeze them so that they can have enough time to perform ibadah during Ramadhan. During iftar time, we share and exchange dishes with our neighbors which used to add more harmony among us in Zambia.

Here in Indonesia, I was quite thoughtful for my adjustment with the atmosphere as well as the foods. Unexpectedly, the university has been very caring with us international students. The University’s Masjid Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin was an iftar gathering spot. Every evening we were picked from our student residence hall to the masjid. This act was very striking to me. The love and care this university has is more than enough. The foods provided for iftar and dinner were healthy and well managed. I had the opportunity to taste different delicacies from Indonesian cuisine. The staff’s etiquette with us was beyond than just a duty. They always posses a very friendly and humble attitude towards us. Their smiley faces were always welcoming.

Comparing the weather of my country and Indonesia, I realized that Indonesia has a wonderful weather which is very suitable for fasting. The weather is always very cool or raining. The fasting duration in Zambia is between 14-16hours with extremely hot weather ranging from 38°C-40°C with no rain. In Indonesia the fasting duration is only about 12 hours. Gratefully I observed fasting in a healthy condition and I feel I was very strong during the day.

When I was in Zambia, I spent my Ramadhan with my family. We used to go to nearby Masjid for prayers. Yet I must say IIIU never failed to make me feel left out when I am away from my family. Happy gathering with friends at the Masjid after a hectic day of studying and assignments had been a time I would always look forward to. We ate, we had chit chat and prayed Tarawih together. This used to be a free and refreshing time for all the students. This added in strengthening our friendship with everyone. I couldn’t be more thankful for all these arrangements.

Lastly, the month of Ramadhan is about to end. My Ramadan journey in Indonesia particularly in IIIU campus was very wonderful, I feel at home – IIIU campus members have been seen as my family members. I am really so grateful for their support.

During Eid in Zambia, we usually exchange gifts and home made sweet dishes with friends and neighbors. The men and women go for Eid prayer to the masjid and exchange hugs and greetings. This is a time to meet friends you have not seen in a long time. Joy is seen on everyone’s face including the little children.

After the Eid prayer we visit each other’s home and have a meal together. Family members who live far away get an opportunity to come together.

I believe that IIIU will open its arms happily for its students to give a family vibe to all the far from home students. I am so grateful to be part of IIIU that covers every aspect, inside and outside of the academic life at a university.

By Nihad Ashraf, MA student at the Faculty of Economics and Business, IIIU from Zambia, Southern Africa.