Words by Josh B. Dermer – Assistant Front of Book Editor
Syed Hussnain, a sophomore pre-med major at Syracuse University, is your typical student in the academic sense. But when it comes to the social scene, he often has a difficult time balancing recreation and religious obligation.
How do you identify yourself?
Growing up in a small village in Pakistan, I was a familiar face to most of my village’s residents. I think that’s what established the foundation of my identity, given that it goes back to some of my earliest memories.
Was it difficult to move to the United States?
After moving to the U.S. and settling in my small town of Watervliet, N.Y., I was able to build some close friendships that helped me adjust to a new culture and place. At Watervliet High School, I knew my teachers personally and loved engaging in small group discussions with my classmates. There was this closely knit environment in my high school and I was really able to thrive academically. I was selected as one of the few students to enroll in the New Visions: Health Careers program at St. Peter’s Hospital, and graduated fourth in my class.
Why did you choose Syracuse? How was your first year?
Syracuse was my best option academically. I didn’t really even know much about the school. During my freshman year at SU, I found it difficult to reach my academic goals with the large class sizes. Syracuse University is great, don’t get me wrong, and I really felt kind of honored to be given the opportunity to come here. But I think it was my different learning style that made it harder for me to adjust — it’s a big campus with a large population of students, which was a change for me. Most of my freshman year courses consisted of 300 to 400 students. This made it even harder to actively engage in the classroom.
When was the last time you were in Pakistan?
I attended a couple of weddings for my cousins in February of 2011. It made me realize how much I actually miss it. It’s where I’m from. When I think about all the places I’ve been in my life, so far it’s the one place I can truly call home.
How would you describe yourself socially?
I’m very much a people person. I have friends on this campus, but I can’t hang out with them if they are doing something I can’t do. When I’m with my friends back home it’s a different story. I can hang out with them until late at night, and together we find our own ways to pass time.
What are some of the religious restrictions you follow?
I’d say most of the ones I follow deal with eating and drinking restrictions. I can’t eat pork and certain foods that don’t follow halal rules. But the big one being on a college campus is definitely the alcohol restriction.
My problem is not that I don’t know how to socialize or make friends; it has more to do with my religious boundaries. If someone is drinking, it really doesn’t bother me. But it makes it harder for me to connect with them because, as a Muslim, I’m not supposed to be socializing with people who are drinking. Basically, my biggest problem is that I embrace these religious restrictions.
Muslims aren’t allowed to drink alcohol in any way. I know I don’t have to follow all these rules — I mean, I’m on my own right now and no one is on my back about it. It’s just been a part of my life for so long, I couldn’t really imagine being any other way.
What are some of your goals regarding your lifestyle at college?
I actually plan on transferring. Nothing is for sure just yet, but I’ve been getting my applications and what not ready.
In my opinion, I would be better able to become an active member in a smaller setting when compared to SU. By transferring to a relatively smaller school, I think I’ll be able to get the best of both worlds. I’ll be able to achieve my academic potential as well as form solid friendships.
Shabbat: The Jewish day of rest. On Shabbat, observances also entail refraining from a range of activities, such as turning on lights and cooking.
What this means: Imagine trying to do homework on a Saturday night without lights and Easy Mac.
Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic calendar and regarded as the fourth pillar of Islam. It is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement, and increased devotion and worship during which Muslims worldwide fast from dawn until sunset.
What this means: Imagine sitting through class all day without food or water. See how long you would last.
Sex: In the Christian faith, it is a commandment to have sex only with the person to whom you’re married.
What this means: Imagine putting your physical romance on hold until you tie the knot.