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One can only wonder at the roommate who wakes up at five in the morning to prepare a plate full of fried eggs and toast slathered in peanut butter.

But that is exactly what College junior Gabby Abrishamian-Garcia does during the Baha’i fasting period, which calls for the devout to reflect on their spirituality and abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset.

The Baha’i fasting period is a 19-day interval leading up to the Spring Equinox on March 21.

Though members of the Baha’i faith between the ages of 15 and 70 are encouraged to fast, there are many exceptions. Those who are sick, nursing or pregnant are not supposed to engage in fasting.

According to Abrishamian-Garcia, the fasting period is a time of spiritual “rejuvenation.” The denial of sustenance, she said, is meant to be symbolic of resisting “physical desires” or “bad habits.”

While it can be challenging to make such a commitment during the school year — with class schedules and extracurricular activities — Abrishamian-Garcia said it gets easier over time.

“Your body does start to get used to it after a few days,” she said. “Breakfast really is the most important thing.”

The Baha’i faith is not alone in fasting at this time of year.

College sophomore Rita Wahba participated in a traditional fast on Thursday leading up to the Jewish holiday of Purim, which begins Saturday evening. She said it can be a challenge to engage in fasting because of her class schedule.

“But it’s not impossible to deal with,” she said.

College sophomore Humna Bhojani enjoys fasting for Ramadan.

Ramadan helps to you “empathize” with those who don’t get to eat everyday, she said. That’s the “best part” of the holiday.

It “increases your endurance” she added. “You definitely come out stronger in the end.”

According to Religious Studies Department Chair Jamal Elias, sentiments like Bhojani’s are common.

“There is something very fulfilling [and] meaningful about human beings’ abilities to exercise control over our bodies,” he wrote in an e-mail. “In most ways they function [and deteriorate] out of our control.”

College sophomore Emily Goshey, a recent convert to Baha’i, said she has actually focused on her school work better since she started fasting.

“I’m one of those people that uses food to procrastinate,” she said.

Although there aren’t many practicing Baha’is on campus, Abrishamian-Garcia said the Penn environment is very accepting of her practice.

“It was a lot harder in high school,” she said.

Despite the physical difficulties of fasting, both Goshey and Abrishamian-Garcia emphasized the spiritual significance of the fast.

“It’s more of a spiritual fast than a physical fast,” Goshey said.

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