Morocco. Al-mahgrib. the West.
This strange and fascinating land has been my home for the last 25 days. I’m going to attempt to describe what it’s been like- words might fail me at times, so I ask that you bear with me for the next two months and twenty five days as I work through it.
Prior to age seventeen, I’d never been on a plane. Though it seems that ever since my first flight, I’ve been taking full advantage of any opportunity to fly. Every semester I make the trip from California to Vermont for school (and have seen much of the Midwest from 35,000 ft. as a result).
And now, here I am, in Meknès, Morocco. I’ve been a U.S. passport bearer for about five months now, and I have to admit, getting that first stamp was unforgettable.
Just to make things easier, here’s a quick stat report of what I’m doing/answers to FAQs I received before departing for Morocco:
- I am a student at Moulay Ismail University, which, at 23,000+ students, is the largest school I’ve ever attended.
- My course load consists of the following: Beginning Arabic (and the Moroccan dialect, Darija), Islamic Society and Politics, Three Religions/Three Peoples and The Representation of Geopolitical Conflict in Western and Arab Media.
- No, I did not study a lick of Arabic before I left. I could maybe recognize two or three letters. (Proud to say, however, that I now know 25 out of 28 letters!) I do, however, have a working knowledge of French, which has proved extremely useful.
- I do not have to cover my head here.
Orientation week was ridiculously cool: in a week, I visited Casablanca, Ouzoud/Beni Mellal and Marrakesh. I took pictures and realized that Morocco is extremely photogenic. Also, that I still really love birds.
Perhaps it’s just the way I am, but I’m starting to feel adjusted. My official motto of the year is “going for it 2014,” so I’ve tried to take as many risks and opportunities as I can while here. I think it’s a sort of mindset/attitude one acquires out of necessity while traveling: if you’re only in a certain place for a short amount of time, why not experience it to the fullest?
I will admit though, it’s an odd feeling realizing that I’m not in America anymore. If it doesn’t hit me while I’m walking down the street or around the city, the Internet is quick to remind me. Take, for example, when I was trying to watch the Superbowl, only to be met with this message:
It’s the subtle differences that make me realize I’m a long ways from home. Just yesterday I was watching the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony with my roommate… in French. On France 3. Because of course, our television doesn’t have English channels.
Regardless, I love being in Morocco. Like any experience, it has its ups and downs. Most importantly, every day I wake up and remember how grateful I am to be part of the privileged few who get to study abroad. Did you know that in the 2012-13 school year, ~283,000 students studied abroad? When you think about how many schools and students there are in the United States, that number seems absurdly small.
In summary: Morocco is wildly different from anywhere I’ve ever been, but it’s fun and exciting, and I have a lot of thoughts/feelings about it. So to all my friends, family, and whoever else may wander to this blog- I hope you’ll enjoy my travel spots and thoughts. There’s plenty more where this came from!