#MuslimsOfRutgers: What College is For


The following was written precisely on the night after graduation on May 19, 2014 at 1:50 AM in my bed at home.

“They say that the majority of communication between humans is non-verbal. I forget the exact percentage, but I believe it. I don’t know–maybe I’m just awkward (ok, maybe I’m very awkward). #CommunicationsClass

Now that I think about it, I haven’t really said much to people recently. No measurable amount of “small talk” with my classmates. In fact, even today, at the commencement, I didn’t feel particularly obliged to offer the standard dry dose of congratulations.

I felt a deeper, more implicit connection to those at the ceremony—it almost felt like there were one hundred tiny gold chains threaded between my heart to those of my classmates. If you listened closely, you might have heard them jangling in the breeze.

It felt like I could grasp their emotions: their guilt, their triumph, their yearning—all in one fistful, as we sat in the bottom of that arena, decked out head to toe in uncomfortable regalia.

All I would need to do is look at my classmate to say “I know what you went through at Old Queens during the NoRice protest” or “I know what it feels like to have your heart shattered, please borrow a piece of mine”, or “we don’t have to talk about your family problems over the summer but I’m here for you when you need to” or “I know we weren’t close in college but it doesn’t matter to me. We can be friends anyway.” These words echoed through my being as loud as the speakers on stage. I looked up and the clouds looked so heavenly above us, blotting out the naked sun for our contentment.

I barely even remember the speech. I just remember thinking about them.

The turning of the tassels. 4 years in one extension and contraction of the shoulder and elbow joints. Man, the clouds look so perfect today. Subhan Allah. The wind kisses my forehead. Hats thrown in the air, like velvet confetti. Hugs and smiles abound. The frantic searching for friends you know you won’t see for a very long time. The distant drum of a tabla from the stands. Whistles. Fanfare. More music.

The ones that say that they will “definitely catch up with you later after graduation” are probably the ones who will forget you as soon as they got to know you.

But, your real friends will need no Facebook event or Groupme. These people will always find their way to you. All you will have to do is tug on that chain.

When you got to Rutgers, do you remember feeling small? Do you remember how you felt waiting for the F bus at night after a brutal day? Do you remember what it felt like to push for the first time because you were late for that exam?

You come to realize, eventually, hopefully, that it isn’t all about you. That everyone else on the bus is probably going through the same existential crisis you are. That, while your existence is significant and miraculous, it fits into a grander picture. You begin to see your corners and your edges, and how they might fit into this insanely complex puzzle.

You learn passion from Amani, responsibility from Kareem, grit from Evan, lineage from Simoni, open mindedness from Mark Bauer, generosity from Fahim, audacity from Hadiya, amiability from Humza, organization from Faryal, leadership from Sherif, kindness from Aman, hilarity from Souad, Minna, and all of those other girls, swag from Abdullah and his beard, comportment from Saad Zafar, waviness from Saad Saeed, dedication from Yusra, and laughter, inspiration, friendship, love and everything else good from Abdul Rehman.

In the end, you come out a little older and a little more aware of how much you don’t know. And that, my friends, is what college is for. ❧

Raza Zia is a first year medical student at Rowan SOM. He loves hiking, MSAing, and drawing. He graduated from Rutgers in 2014.


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