Somali Sideways - Haroon Hassan

(Picture from Somali Sideways Facebook, Click to view)

Here we have Haroon Hassan at #TheOrangery, #KensigntonGardens, #London

"After leaving sixth form, I embarked on a new challenge. I had a sheltered upbringing during my early years. I was fortunate in a sense that my parents kept me busy and kept me away from anything that could divert me away from my education and more importantly my religion. I made the decision to move away from home and challenge myself against students of a higher calibre than myself. It was a gamble for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was leaving my family and friends behind. Secondly, I was leaving behind somewhere which I was used too, like something as small as not having to tell the barber what haircut I liked etc. And finally, I was heading to a place I knew nothing about. My first year was a disaster. By December, I had barely made any new friends, my room mates and I was massively underperforming academically. It would take nearly 30-40 mins to head to the Mosque for Jummah prayers, which was conducted in Bengali. Now I have nothing against Bangladeshi people or their language but me and my best friend were the only ones who couldn’t understand a word! To make matters worst they seemed like a close community and I didn’t feel like I could join and I have to say it but it kind of put me off going to the Mosque. Another difficulty was the University environment. If you wanted to make friends, it seemed like you have to join them. But avoiding them was much harder and as there weren’t many Muslims around. You were considered weird if you requested the alcohol to be kept away from your section of the cupboard. I just about got through the year academically and socially but I felt with little to show with it and thinking whether university was for me. Anyway the turning point was doing Champions, a program which developed me more as a person and made me take responsibility in learning how to deal with different people. I was able to excel at something which I failed to do in my first year. This success gave me a platform to go from strength to strength, in terms of socialising and I carried that into university. The only issue was all this success was getting to my head and it did have an impact on my belief and it even impacted me academically as I was not at the level where I needed to be and I was in trouble. I failed to prioritise my studies and it was not until third year I got the balance right. I kept my social group close, and made sure that my priorities were my studies and my deen because those two key things ingrained in me through youth and what I was used to. In the end I not only exceeded my own expectation I made solid friends and resisted temptation of the uni environment, well I just about did it". #SomaliSideways.

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