Iffah Saufi: Being a Muslim student at Penn State

Story/Video posted April 25, 2018 in News by Haeun Cho


Iffah Saufi was nervous about how she would be treated as a Muslim from Malaysia when she arrived at Penn State in 2016. She wears a hijab and prays several times a day in public, so she knew would stand out in the crowd at University Park.

The math major is now a sophomore. She says she feels safe on campus, where she has made friends and found a place in the Malaysian Club.

Saufi is confident enough now that she served as master of ceremonies for the club’s recent Malaysian Convention event at Heritage Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center.

“I wanted to share our culture to many people in State College,” she said. “It was a wonderful event because we got a lot of participation by American as well as other international students.

The Malaysian Student Association held an event “Malaysian Convention” in Heritage Hall at Hub-Robeson center on March 24 at 2 p.m. by the Penn State Malaysian Students Club. They usually hold the event annually to share their cultures and history. The event featured live contemporary and traditional band performances, open floor dance sessions, a karaoke quiz, and many interactive booths.

SWZmYWggU2F1ZmkgaXMgaGFuZ2luZyBvdXQgd2l0aCBmcmllbmRzIGF0IHRoZSBNYWxheXNpYW4gQ29udmVudGlvbiAyMDE4Lg==Iffah Saufi is hanging out with friends at the Malaysian Convention 2018. Photo by Haeun Cho

The main goal of the Penn State Malaysian Students Club is to present the culture of Malaysia as well as promote cultural exchange, friendship and mutual understanding between its members, the Penn State community and the general public.

“I like to make friends because for me, making more friends will open my mind to see other cultures, and I also can improve my English speaking.” Saufi said.

Penn State has almost thousand Muslim students from different countries. Although they are a minority at Penn State even they have a strong community. Saufi wears "hijab" every day and keeps her religions and cultures close.

“The most thing that I struggle for as a Muslim is just making time to pray. This is because mostly people here don’t know that as a Muslim, we have to pray at a certain time,” she said. “So, what I need to do is escape myself for about five minutes from whatever I do, whether in class, working or any events by Penn State to pray.”

Since she must pray five times a day for her religion, she manages the time well while she studies and works on campus. People sometimes look at her strange while she is praying outside. Once a student asked her if she had a bomb under her hijab, she laughs about it now.

Saufi said she loves to make friends from different countries. She sometimes shares her Muslim tradition with one of her friends from China who converted to Muslim last year.

“I am from China and I have been a Muslim since last year. When I met Iffah, I always asked her to fix my pin on hijab. She listened to me and gave me good advice. I still want to know more about Islam. I am so glad to have her in my life.” Minrui Nobadi a junior majoring in Communications, said.

Saufi tries to keep her own cultures, values, and identity while she is studying in U.S. She wants people to get to know her, her countries and religion so that people can understand

“In Penn State, I don’t have any plan to organize any event, but I’m planning to nominate myself to be the high committee of my Malaysian Club. If I will be elected, I will organize an event that collaborate with other countries.” she said.

Saufi also made a goal for her future life after graduation. Her visa is F-1 in America, a student visa, she cannot stay in the U.S. permanently after she graduate as an international student. 

“I’m a sponsored student, so I have to go back to Malaysia after graduating because I need to serve my country back. However, I want to try to apply for internship here even though I heard that it is hard to get an internship for an international student. Since I am a statistics major for actuarial option, I’m planning to apply for internship at any insurance company.” she said.

Video: Praying at Pasquerilla Spritual Center

 Washing is part of the prayer ritual. When she was at the spritual center, she washed her hands and feet.