Spirituality 101: Figuring out faith at UBC

Written by Maahin Ahmed

The summer before my first year at UBC, I read everything written about what to expect as someone new to UBC. I was told that my first year at UBC was going to be full of new experiences that would be exciting, inspiring, confusing, and sometimes, uncomfortable.

And…it’s true, my first year was a rollercoaster. I wasn’t prepared for constantly having to choose between trying new things and holding on to the familiar. You see, I grew up in a Muslim family in Pakistan. So, one of the things I felt the need to hold on to was my religion in its various manifestations (e.g. dressing a certain way, eating certain foods, interacting with my peers and professors in certain ways).

Flashback to my first week at UBC:

I’ve just come back from class, and it’s dinner time. I put my hijab[1] on, walk over to the Totem Park dining hall, grab a tray and then just stand next to the doorway. To the passersby— if they noticed me at all — I might have looked like I was waiting for someone. When, in fact, I was in the middle of having a conversation with myself about the necessity of eating halal[2]:

“It’s 6PM already… I wonder if any of my floor mates are still around? Why do they eat dinner at 5? Who does that? Salad or sandwich? Do people at the sandwich bar use the same equipment to make the veggie and non-veggie sandwiches? Do they change their gloves after making a ham sandwich? If not, should I eat a sandwich anyway or would that be wrong? Are those mashed potatoes only served with the pork? Let’s observe others… and now I’m just staring at people. You know what? Baby carrots and cucumbers it is!” 

In case you’re wondering, I did not end up eating baby carrots and cucumbers all year. However, this was just the first of many conversations I had with myself over the course of first year regarding matters of faith.

Regardless of who you are and where you are coming from, you might find yourself in similar situations. Maybe you grew up in a religious family, but decide that religion needs to take a backseat in life. Maybe you can’t wait to abandon faith in pursuit of new experiences. Maybe you think you understand your beliefs, but find yourself re-negotiating the role of faith in your life. Or maybe you don’t follow a faith at all, but feel drawn to something because of an event you attended or just because that cute person in your lecture is religious. Anything can happen!

With this in mind, I have put together a brief guide to figuring out faith and spirituality at UBC. Read more at UBCfyi.