Faith in the Journey: One Senior’s Davidson Path

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Every Davidson student walks away from campus with lessons, experiences and relationships that shape the rest of their lives. For one student, that journey was about faith, health and taking full advantage of the opportunities before her.  

In reflecting on my four years at Davidson, I am reminded of my religious journey and see it as one of my most transformative experiences. Davidson’s Presbyterian heritage has afforded me many opportunities to explore spirituality and given me a voice to comfortably talk about my about religious experiences.

Prior to Davidson, I had not considered religious life as a factor in choosing a college. Now, my advice to future students would be to make a faith journey part of your Davidson experience: Take advantage of diverse classes across disciplines, practice intentional reflection, attend cultural heritage and religious events on campus and take advantage of Davidson grants and trip opportunities.

Rahat and family

I came from a public education system where religious conversations rarely occurred.  More importantly, I felt overwhelmed having these conversations having converted to Christianity from Islam. I was raised Muslim, but stopped attending mosque because of the religious persecution my family faced due to my mom’s divorce. Soon after, I converted to Christianity when I began attending church with a friend.

I came to Davidson as a young, unknowledgeable Christian and didn’t want to share with others nor engage in conversations around faith. My hall counselor invited us to approach her with questions about life at Davidson, including religious life. I tended not to engage in conversations about faith, but knew I had an invitation and religious resource while at Davidson.

In the fall semester of my sophomore year, I studied abroad in India, taking an “Islam in South Asia” class that pushed me to learn about and reflect on my own experience growing up Muslim. We visited many different houses of worship: Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian. The experience helped me gain knowledge of those different faiths and made me more open to talking about religion.

Fatehpur Sikri, a Muslim site, near Agra

Group in from of Golden Temple, the holiest site for Sikhs, in Amritsar

Her and friend in front of Taj Mahal

During my sophomore year, I became very ill and was hospitalized for eight days. My hall counselor visited and prayed with me daily. I felt frustrated with God for allowing this suffering, but now believe God used my hall counselor to bring me closer to Him. Eventually, the doctors had a diagnosis – Ulcerative Colitis (UC). As my health recovered, my faith also strengthened.

Group of three at restaurant

With hall counselor and friend

Much of junior year, I attended church regularly and got involved with interfaith events, as well as participating in the Chaplain’s Office trip to Taizé, a French monastery. That experience allowed me to reflect on my religious journey and to communicate it aloud. Being at Taizé and having the guidance of Chaplain Rob Spach also helped me to work through my anger with God over my health issues.

Group at Taizé

Taizé group with Rob Spach, second from right

This year, I’ve tried to attend church and interfaith events more regularly and to share my religious experience with others. My faith in God and prayer has strengthened, and I’ve been in remission for my UC since the summer of 2016. Because of my faith journey, I’ll leave Davidson with a stronger reliance on God’s will, curiosity and appreciation for other people’s religious experiences, friends with whom I can have faith conversations, and knowledge of practices (mindfulness, meditation, yoga) to manage my health.

Muslim Student protest on campus after ban

Muslim Student Association demonstration against the recent travel ban

I’m incredibly thankful for every opportunity and friendship I’ve been afforded during my time at Davidson—especially the opportunities to study abroad in India and Taizé. I’m excited about where my faith journey will take me next, as well as my continued relationship with the college after graduation.

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About Author

Rahat Sajwani

Rahat Sajwani '17 of Chicago is a first generation Pakistani-American. She is a Presidential Scholar, a James I. Smith Scholar and an Honorary Terry Scholar.

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