InterMSA Princeton Summit Trip Reflection
This post was written by undergraduate student, Mahd Sharif ’19…
This past weekend, the Babson Muslim Student Association embarked on a trip to Princeton University for the third-annual Princeton InterMSA Summit! Our MSA attend the second-annual summit last year as well and ever since then we have been counting down the days. Last year around 7 members of the MSA attended the trip and it was the most beneficial event we participated in all year. Thanks to Babson College granting us funding for hotels, it became a bonding trip before anything. At the time, MSA bonding was very much needed as the Muslim community was weak on campus and didn’t have much presence. This aspect of last year’s MSA impacted several members of our group to great extremes including myself – our transition to Babson College was made challenging due to identity loss and lack of spiritual and religious support. Through building ourselves as individuals over the course of that year, we knew in order to excel at Babson, we must strategically create a community for ourselves and foster it for years to come. Starting from Fall 2016, we held many events but focused heavily on community building: I am very grateful because we were able to establish a strong working community and offer each other support in such a condensed period of time. This was monumental for our growth as individuals, students, and leaders. For this reason we had pre-marked our calendars for the Princeton trip as we knew it would be the highlight of the year.
This year’s theme was Spiritual Empowerment; the speakers were two globally revered Muslims and individuals by the names of Rumana Ahmed and Omar Suleiman. Rumana Ahmed is a strong and powerful Muslim women who worked with the Obama Administration for five years in the White House and Omar Suleiman is an accomplished global religious scholar. Thanks to Babson College and The Professional Accelerator Fund, we were able secure hotels for the trip once again. We arrived Friday night – the first night consisted of a brief introduction on the meaning of spirituality, followed by a social event to introduce ourselves. The night ended fairly early after a prayer session and we gathered in the hotel. The late-night hotel intervention sessions were essential to the beauty of this trip as we all shared our thoughts on Islam, relationships, Babson, and offered each other advice, support, laughs, and smiles all around. The second day was the official start of the programming. Rumana Ahmed was first to present; she briefed her experience under the Obama administration and told the audience of nearly 300 students – composed of MSA leaders and members from schools all over the coast such Yale, Harvard, and Rutgers – to remain resilient through the pressures of life. Omar Suleiman presented a lecture on spiritual empowerment and reminded us all to remain grateful. Following both speakers, the Princeton MSA led breakout sessions as we all dispersed to our breakout groups assigned to us on our name tags. This portion of the program was useful because it allowed us to develop connections with other Muslims – I was able to make three new friends from Connecticut, New York University, and Rutgers University all in one sitting. Following the programming, our MSA explored Princeton’s beautiful campus and took many pictures that will remain lifetime memories.
The trip was magnificent and the programming revived me, giving an energy boost I truly needed coming back to campus. Along with thirteen Muslim members, we had the great honor of having two non-Muslims accompany us for the weekend. Although, the programming nor the food was my favorite highlight of the weekend. The one aspect of this trip I will remember most clearly was the time we spent together as a MSA. At times I made a conscious effort to step outside of myself and view the setting of us all together as an outsider. This allowed me to see the true progression of the MSA over the past year. I raised in joy and contentment as we walked the distinguished campus of Princeton as one unified group, keeping in the back of my head the work and sacrifices it took to get to this stage. Lastly, the weekend left me satisfied because I effectively captured various moments of tremendous joy and genuine laughter on each members’ face. As compared to last year, with the help of many, I can confidently say the MSA has created a flourishing community, one that we will continue to grow. Most importantly for me, it has outlined for me my purpose as a Muslim and a Babson leader. I am already counting down the days till we take our next trip!