These are all valid questions. Especially if you’ve never visited the holy city of Qom.
I’ve decided to write up a post on what you should bring, what you should not waste valuable luggage space on, and what you are able to find here.
But that will come later.
I think before we worry about starting the physical journey as a seminary student in Iran, we should prepare ourselves spiritually.
So here’s a short checklist of important points:
1. Why are you coming? – Yes, to study. But what do you hope to gain from it? There is no right or wrong answer. Just remember it’s a whole experience.
2. You will be tested – So get out of your comfort zone. Iranian culture is a different culture for most of us coming from the coddled West. Waiting in line? Customer service? A salesclerk who cares? Yup – there will be some trying moments. But don’t let it bother you. You have to remember why you’re here.
3. Learn to deal without – It’s a tough test. How can I live so far from my family? How can I live without the comforts of home? How can I live without bagels, shredded cheddar cheese, maple syrup and chocolate chips? (Yes it sounds lame, but it’s still a test.)
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff – So your new home means a slightly cramped bedroom, a second-hand dresser and no room for your ironing board. It’s ok! I’ve found that once I moved past caring about trivial things, my mind and soul were free.
5. Finding the beauty in Qom – it’s one thing to visit Qom, and it’s one thing to live here – even if temporarily. While the first year was a struggle for myself personally, I can honestly say that I now consider this city as my home. There is a beautiful feeling that comes from attending Jummah prayers, or standing in the haram of Lady Fatima Masooma (s). Or turning on the TV and listening to prayers and Quran. You can’t harness this feeling anywhere else.
This isn’t a complete list, but it does help to get an understanding of this new journey you’re undertaking.
You’ll find a whole community here of folks who have left their families, jobs, homes for the opportunity to learn more about our faith. We are brothers and sisters, and we all know what it’s like. You won’t feel alone.
I pray the adjustment is easy for you, and through the help of Lady Fatima Masooma, I pray that you grow closer to Allah (SWT) through this process.