A Graduate Student in Chicago – First Impressions


Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalamu alaikum!

Last week, my parents and I stuffed the car full of my belongings and drove around 6 hours to Chicago. I’m beginning my Masters of Public Health program at a university here and so far it’s been more than a little overwhelming. 

Some of you who have been following my blog for the past couple of years know that I’ve spent 6 months in Indonesia, where I learned the language and taught ESL at an elementary school. I wish I could say that my experience in Indonesia (the fourth most populated country in the world) was more difficult than adapting to life in Chicago (the third most populated city in the US), but so far; I can’t.

The American way of life is so fast paced, competitive, and largely chaotic. It’s easy to forget that most of the world does not operate as Americans do. My time in Indonesia was much less stressful.

Worries like finding a job to help pay for tuition, paying rent, studying, practicums, and getting to class on time are amplified by the late summer heat, the traffic, the light, sound, and air pollution, and of course, urban safety concerns. 

It’s only been a few days, but I’m trying to mentally prepare myself to deal with all of these things. I’m sure I’m exaggerating. Thousands of people have been in my situation and adapted, conquered their environments over time. I’m sure I will, too, inshAllah.

My biggest worry though, is prioritization. My religion is the most important thing to me, and for the past year, I’ve been blessed enough to not have to worry about too much interference. Now, my day starts with a 30-45 minute commute, and the return journey can sometimes be longer than that.

As Muslims, the 5 daily prayers are crucial in maintaining religious identity. There are people who adhere to the 5 prayers, and there are those who don’t. I like to be of those who do, and inshAllah, I’ll continue adhering and improving.

Right now, my main concerns are staying attached to my deen (Islam and its practice), staying ahead in my classes, and finding a job. May Allah grant me ease and success in all these things, Ameen.

And so far, Allah has given me ease in every step (I bet you were hoping I’d find the light). My campus, although a bit of commute, is easy to get to. My classes are all in the same building, in the same room. My roommate, alhamdulillah, is Muslim. My apartment is in one of the safest locations in Chicago, with great shopping and restaurants just walking distance. I have relatives nearby who I can stay with on the weekends, and the career services department at my school has been very helpful and encouraging. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

This blog began as a means to document life changes. Since its inception, I’ve graduated from college, volunteered abroad, had some quarter-life and spiritual crises, was blessed beyond words, had some health scares (which I did not blog about), visited the UK, and have now safely arrived in Chicago, ready for another adventure. May Allah make it easy, beneficial, and accept it in my favor, Ameen. 

I hope to regularly talk about my life here. How does a short little Muslimah navigate this huge city? InshAllah we’ll find out, and inshAllah, I can come back and say I was silly to be so stressed. InshAllah Allah has the back of every believer juggling deen, studies, and urban life, ameen.

Until next time, inshAllah,




3 thoughts on “A Graduate Student in Chicago – First Impressions

  1. Salaam!

    I am happy you blog because then I can develop my own writing skills. You’re helping me out! Thanks! 😉

    Just some thoughts… since your commute is long, think of taking that time to do dikr or read a surah. And before you begin your day/ work , make an intention asking Allah to help you. Approach studying/work as a form of ibadaah; Allah created what you are learning, and you are getting to know your creator.

    So proud of you!!

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