Top tips for students observing Ramadan during exam season and placements

7th April 2022
Lantern turned on at night

Ramadan is an important celebration in Islamic culture, and typically a holy time for community, prayer and reflection. In 2022, Ramadan is taking place between 2nd April and 1st May, and reasons for fasting can vary from person to person.

Unlike last year, Ramadan falls in a period of no lockdowns and limited social distancing rules around the UK – and we’re not complaining! However, similar to last year, it’s around the exam period, so taking that extra time to find a balance between Ramadan celebrations and your university studies will help to make it all the more enjoyable.

Plus, for students who have moved away from home to study in a new place, it could be a time of accidental isolation if you’re not surrounded by family or Muslim friends who are also observing, so we suggest trying to make the most of time with your flatmates when your schedule allows. Read on for more of our top tips for students observing Ramadan at university.

Planning makes perfect

Like anything, planning ahead for each day during Ramadan will hopefully make the process as smooth and simple as possible, so that there’s as little worry as possible when it comes to studying and exams. Plan your timetable as far in advance as you can, including meals, time for prayer, revision sessions, shopping and meeting up with friends.

Top tip: For food shopping, it may be worth looking at delivery from your local supermarket for some basic items, so you don’t have to add a food shop to your schedule too often!

Staying awake during the day

Waking up for suhur (pre-dawn meal) could lead to disruptions later in your day if you start to feel particularly tired. If that’s the case, planning ahead may help to avoid any huge dramas. It’s a good idea to consider whether taking a short nap during the day will help to make up for lost sleep, or even changing your sleep schedule altogether.

It’s also important to think about what you’re actually eating (and drinking). A meal of slow-release-energy foods with lots of fibre and complex carbs will help sustain you for longer – for example, grains, oats, beans, bananas, eggs and juicy fruits, like grapes and watermelons. And drinking lots of fluids is essential so you stay hydrated!

Often, your social life can take quite a hit during Ramadan. If you feel you have the capacity, it’s a great idea to dedicate some time to meeting up with friends to help create that sense of community that you might be missing if you’re living away from family.

Man and woman looking through work files together

Taking advantage of your flexible schedule

Most university timetables offer a pretty flexible schedule for students. As you typically won’t be having lectures all day, every day, you’re likely to have some free time that you can take advantage of. You can adapt your days to suit your most important needs and, depending on your schedule, it may even be possible to stay up all night while you’re able to eat and use this time to study, too.

Plenty of rest and nutritional meals will help best prepare you for nights full of revision, relaxing and even socialising with fellow night-owls. A varied, balanced iftar (post-sundown meal) with healthy portions of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals will help you stay awake overnight. And again, drinking lots of water will keep you hydrated!

Check out some meal inspiration in our Sanctuary Students’ recipe books!

Be mindful of your mental and physical health

Throughout Ramadan, conserving energy is really important so you don’t become lethargic. Limiting exercise will make sure you don’t expend your energy too quickly and become dehydrated. If it’s a particularly sunny day, try to stay in the shade as much possible so you don’t become too warm.

In addition to being mindful of your physical health, you must also consider your mental health. It’s likely that, at times, you’ll find yourself needing a break, a change of scenery or some fresh air – so do what you can safely do to meet your needs, whether that’s visiting friends or going for a walk.

Image of someone running along a running track in a park

Ramadan while on placement

For students observing Ramadan while on a work placement, our number one piece of advice is to communicate with your manager, coworkers and placement mentor or coordinator. This way, everyone can be prepared to help if you ever need any support.

Thinking about your suhur and iftar meals ahead of each day, discussing where there is a quiet place for prayer at your workplace, and asking for time off for Eid as soon as possible are a few simple things you can do that will help you feel supported throughout your placement! And remember – if you ever have any trouble with making suitable arrangements, reach out to your university for help.

How to support friends during Ramadan

If someone you know is observing Ramadan, remember that everyone has a different experience, and some people will be more comfortable discussing theirs than others. It can sometimes be insulting to ask why or why not someone may be fasting, or asking them questions with an answer that can be found at the top of the page of a quick Google search.

Ask your friends if they’re comfortable for you to ask any questions, but remember that no one has the answers to everything! And respect friends’ wishes if they don’t want to talk about their reasons for observing or not observing. Plus, it’s likely, at times, that your friends will be tired or cranky due to lack of sleep or energy, so remember not to take it personally, and ask if there’s anything you can do to better support them.

A group of friends taking a picture whilst having brunch.

We’re here to help

It's important to be mindful of your mental health all year round, and regularly check in with yourself and your friends. Hopefully, your university experience is a happy and healthy one, but we know that’s not always the reality. If you or someone you know is struggling, talk to someone you trust – whether that’s a teacher, parent or friend – or call Sanctuary Students’ free helpline on 0800 030 5182 to find help as often as you need it, for as long as you like.