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Studying in the West, I Feel Very Uncomfortable

08 January, 2020
Q Assalamu alaikum,

I am a 19-year-old student. I moved from a very conservative Islamic country to a western country last year to pursue my studies. However, after coming here I realized I didn’t like many things, such as the mixed environment.

I also like to involve myself in activities but while working, I noticed how my coworkers or students would buy beer and start socializing with girls. The girls at my work/study place would flirt with the boys and even the teachers would be friendly with young girls.

This makes me very uncomfortable as I don’t drink and the farthest I would go with girls is shaking hands. How do I deal with situations like this?

I can’t just leave my place and refuse to talk to them because it happens everywhere. Also, many of teachers wear very inappropriate and revealing clothes and it’s very irritating.

I don’t have any wrong or assuming thoughts about them as I just turn away from it and try to avert my eyes as much as I can. Can you please advise me on how I can deal with this? Thank you.


In this counseling answer:

• There are times in our lives, dear brother when we are tested and tried. This may be one of yours.

• Remember who you are as a Muslim when you are at the university or in a social situation.

• Please give it some time in shaa’ Allah. Try to focus on your studies and connect with other Muslims on campus.

• Find out where the local Masjid is and attend prayers as well as get to know the local Imam.

• The imam can be a good source of support and guidance. Keep in regular contact with your family

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Assalamu alaykum brother,

Thank you for writing to us. I can imagine that studying in a different country has been a huge shock. As a result, you feel uncomfortable. While I’m sure you knew about the differences in culture, it can be hard to fully realize the impact of such changes unless you are experiencing them first-hand. May Allah make it easy for you.

Cultural Shock

You are a young student who moved from a very conservative Islamic country to a Western country for your studies. You stated that you’ve seen a lot of things you dislike and aren’t comfortable with, like the mixed environment, students buying beer, socializing with girls, as well as teachers being friends with girls.

Understandably, this environment makes you feel uneasy. You’re now wondering how to deal with the situation.

Studying in the West, I Feel Very Uncomfortable - About Islam

Time Factors and Adjustments

Brother, moving from one country to another is a big change. There are a lot of adjustments that you must deal with both culturally and spiritually as a Muslim. It’s probably very difficult for you to adjust to the new environment and it may take some time to get used to it.

As Muslims, we understand that not everyone shares the same values and lifestyles. There’s great diversity, even within Islam, when it comes to what people are comfortable with. For instance, some Muslims are okay being in a mixed environment because they are used to it.

Many Muslims who moved to the US, for example, become adjusted to the fact that their environment is mixed. It may not be easy at first, but with time they are able to acclimate while still adhering to Islamic principles.

Tests and Trials

This period of adjustment is where tests and trials of adaptation come in. As you develop a stronger foothold in the country you’re living in, these things will, in shaa’ Allah, not present as such an intense shock factor.

There are times in our lives, dear brother when we are tested and tried. This may be one of yours. I understand that this situation is irritating and uncomfortable for you, but it can be a learning experience instead.

Utilizing Hard times as Learning Experiences

You may learn how to control your anger and distraught. This will take personal growth and development on your part as well as an increasing maturity. There are many Muslims who travel and live in different countries with all types of people, cultures, beliefs, and ways of life.

Our stronghold is in Allah and Islam. The foundation of Islamic values which is embedded in our hearts, minds, and way of life, helps us to adapt and get through most circumstances.

Strengthening Our Resolve

While we can be surrounded by things that are not halal, it doesn’t mean that we have to partake in them or condone them. It only means that we need to strengthen our resolve to stay on the right path as well as not let other people’s lifestyles affect ours. \

I kindly suggest, brother, that you remember who you are as a Muslim when you are at the university or in a social situation. You sound as if you have a very close relationship with Allah, as well as a solid foundation in Islam.

That is a blessing and a strength for you. It will also be helpful, in shaa’ Allah, to remember that no, you are not in your home country, and to expect that things will be different.

 An Educational Experience

Experiencing new and negative things doesn’t always have to be irritating or upsetting, it can be a learning opportunity. Currently, you are looking at the situation with a distraught mindset, but if you look at it as an opportunity to grow and stand firm in passing any test that comes to your way form, Allah, you may find the victories in the situation.

This can, in shaa’ Allah, strengthen your character and insight into how various people live. By understanding how various people live, you can better understand how to approach and deal with others. This is important if you’re considering giving dawah.


When we give dawah to others, we don’t want to approach them judgmentally or critically. We need to understand that people live their lives in a certain way because this is how they are used to live it. Additionally, if we are critical of their way of living, we may turn them away from anything we wish to convey.

Our prophet (PBUH) was kind to others even though they were not Muslim, nor did they live like Muslims. This was illustrated over and over through hadiths, stories of his life, and other illustrations of his character.

Our Prophet (PBUH) as An Example

Through the Sunnah of our Prophet (PBUH), we may learn from the negative experiences and find it easier to tolerate them, in shaa’ Allah. For example, if you’re in a situation where there is a mixing of genders, you may learn new skills and ways to control your desires as well as inappropriate thoughts.

You may learn how to function in mixed groups and still maintain piously. This type of learning can be useful for those who later give lectures/dawah to large crowds like in auditoriums or banquet halls. If we rely on Allah, we can learn from such situations and experiences, and turn them to our benefit.

Muslims who move from conservative countries to Western countries usually adapt very well and are able to strengthen their resolve to stay on the right path. The exposure to different lifestyles, which may include haram behaviors, reinforces the fortitude to do what is right.

Finally, and more importantly, it brings us closer to Allah SWT as we seek relief, guidance, and protection from our Lord.

Easing the Transition

Brother, I kindly suggest that, in shaa’ Allah, in addition to giving the situation more time as well as drawing closer to Allah, you also seek out other Muslims at your school. There may be Muslim student unions or Muslim university groups you can join. Perhaps there is even a Muslim welcoming committee.

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Not only will forming friendships with Muslims at your new school help with the transition, but it will also, in shaa’ Allah, provide you with Islamic resources, supports, and halal social gatherings. You may even meet other students who are from your home country, which may help you feel not as alone.


Brother, I understand this is a very new and difficult situation for you, but Please give it some time in shaa’ Allah. Try to focus on your studies and connect with other Muslims on campus. Find out where the local Masjid is and attend prayers as well as get to know the local Imam.

The imam can be a good source of support and guidance. Keep in regular contact with your family as I can imagine you miss them very much, and in shaa’ Allah hearing their voices will give you comfort and ease. Look at this new experience as a learning opportunity with tests and trials.

Draw closer to Allah and remain steadfast in your journey. In shaa’ Allah, your studies will prove to be educational both academically and spiritually.

We wish you the best.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees are liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha has a PhD in psychology, an MS in public health and a PsyD. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years at Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. She has worked with clients with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, trauma, and OCD. She also facilitated support groups and provided specialized services for victims of domestic violence, HIV positive individuals, as well youth/teen issues. Aisha is certified in Mindfulness, Trauma Informed Care, Behavioral Management, Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and Confidentiality & Security. Aisha is also a Certified Life Coach, and Relationship Workshop facilitator. Aisha has a part-time Life Coaching practice in which she integrates the educational concepts of stress reduction, mindfulness, introspection, empowerment, self love and acceptance and spirituality to create a holistic healing journey for clients. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocates for prisoner rights/reentry, social & food justice, as well as advocating for an end to oppression & racism. In her spare time, Aisha enjoys her family, photography, nature, martial arts classes, Islamic studies, volunteering/charity work, as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.