International Students Share Eid Experiences in Penang

April 18, 2024

Experiencing Eid, also referred to as Hari Raya, away from their homelands stirred a range of emotions for Adnan Irfan Potrik and Allaberd Allaberdiyev, students from the School of Computing, and Shaymaa Naser Mahmood, a student from the School of Business, all enrolled at INTI International College Penang. As they gather to celebrate the end of the fasting month, their experiences highlight the profound significance of cultural diversity and unity and the role they play in fostering resilience.Adnan Irfan Potrik, from India, vividly recalls his first Eid away from home. The absence of loved ones left a void, making the celebration incomplete. His day consisted of solitary prayers followed by a quiet meal and a phone call home, quite different from the lively gatherings he cherished back in India.

Adnan Irfan Potrik, from India, shared his feelings about celebrating Eid alone, saying, “Celebrating alone feels like a dampener on the spirit of Eid. The first time I celebrated alone felt boring. There was nothing much to do. I went for my prayers, came back home, and slept. After waking up, I received a call from my parents who insisted on ordering food from outside, so that’s what I did, and enjoyed it while watching a movie.”

Despite the challenges, Adnan found solace in the familiarity of his cultural practices, reflecting on the significance of Eid as a time of renewal and gratitude. He further shared, “On the second day of Eid, a friend of mine invited me to go outside to a mall. It was a nice day. We roamed Queensbay and Paragon Mall and had delicious food at Dandy Restaurant. Then, the other memorable day I had back in my hometown was every Eid, as we usually celebrate this day with all the cousins.”
Allaberd Allaberdiyev from Turkmenistan demonstrated his resilience by embracing his cultural traditions and the local customs of Malaysia during Eid. His ability to blend His cultural background with the local culture in Malaysia not only influenced the university’s Eid celebration but also fostered unity among students from diverse backgrounds.

Allaberd Allaberdiyev, a student from the Faculty of School of Computing at INTI International College Penang, navigated celebrating Eid in a foreign land by embracing his cultural traditions and the local customs of Malaysia.

During Eid in Allaberd’s native country, the morning typically begins with a gathering at the mosque for special prayers, followed by visiting family and friends, sharing meals, giving and receiving gifts, and reflecting on the blessings of the past month. This fosters a sense of spiritual connection and communal joy.
While the distance from family posed challenges, he found companionship and unity among fellow students, creating a multicultural celebration that enriched his Eid experience. Allaberd stated, “Celebrating Eid in a foreign land involved embracing the local culture while also finding ways to maintain cherished traditions from home, creating a blend of familiar and new experiences that helped me feel connected and enriched.”

Shaymaa Naser Mahmood, from Iran, fondly reminisces about the warmth of family gatherings and traditional feasts during Eid back home. Despite the physical separation from her relatives, she found solace in sharing her cultural heritage with friends from across the globe.

“My cultural upbringing underscored the importance of familial togetherness during celebrations! While I may be distant from my relatives, anyone can become family through genuine affection. This compelled me to gather my friends and partake in diverse cultural festivities during Eid,” expressed Shaymaa.
She vividly described the customary morning prayers performed by men in her homeland, followed by a communal breakfast usually accompanied by thickened cream, bread submerged in sugar syrup, tea, an array of cheeses, and scrambled eggs with jam. For lunch, sumptuous meat-based dishes such as rice with meat or beef stock with sizable meat chunks accompanied by bread soaked in the stock were served, alongside Shaymaa’s favourite dish, dolma, consisting of rice and spice-stuffed vegetables, offering a delightful blend of sourness and flavour.

The experience of celebrating Aidilfitri here is also delightful and meaningful when they get to witness new surroundings besides trying traditional Malaysian foods such as ketupat (rice cake), lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo), chicken and beef rendang, as well as various traditional Malaysian desserts.
Reflecting on the essence of Eid, Shaymaa remarked, “It serves as a reminder of my roots and cultural heritage. Although inherently a religious celebration, Eid resonates deeply with feelings of home and family, prompting us to reach out and reconnect with our loved ones.”

Participating in cultural exchanges and performances, Shaymaa learned the immense value of diversity and the positive impact of promoting unity through shared experiences. She contemplated her journey and expressed, “Initially, my family and I found solace in connecting with people with similar cultural backgrounds. However, we forged strong relationships with local friends over time, and our traditional Arabic-style celebrations transformed into lively multicultural gatherings.”

Eid transcends geographical boundaries for these students, reminding them of the ties that bind humanity. Reflecting on their experiences, they offer valuable insights and lessons for fellow international students embarking on their own Eid celebrations away from home.

As Eid approaches each year, students like Adnan, Allaberd, and Shaymaa envision celebrations filled with love, laughter, and cherished memories, both with their families back home and with the friends they’ve made at INTI International College Penang. Through open houses, cultural exchanges, and shared experiences, they vow to carry forward the spirit of unity and friendship that has enriched their lives. Shaymaa emphasised, “Spending time together, emphasising the feeling of togetherness by visiting one another to celebrate Eid brings a sense of unity and companionship.”

Allaberd added, “To other international students celebrating Eid away from home, take this opportunity to experience the celebration in a new cultural setting, cherish the bonds you form with fellow students and locals, and remember that the spirit of Eid – of love, unity, and gratitude – transcends borders.”

Despite being physically separated from her relatives during Eid, Shaymaa Naser Mahmood, an Iranian student from the Faculty of School of Business at INTI International College Penang, found solace in sharing her cultural heritage with friends from across the globe.