As many things are involving study abroad, the concept of a fall break was entirely foreign to me before this trip. For weeks people in the program were buzzing with ideas about where to go for break. Many were concerned about resetting their Moroccan visas and opted to travel towards Europe. I was one of them.
I stayed with the program to explore Spain. Me along with 15 others embarked on a bus together at 7 a.m. A sleepy journey brought us to the border of Morocco. The next leg of travel was on a ferry. When we stepped inside of the grand boat, I was pleasantly surprised. The space was wide and open. Our group made up the majority of the passengers as we all spread out on the couches that were placed in the center of the ship.
Finally, we arrived in Spain. The air smelled different, it didn’t have the same taste as in Morocco. The signs switched from French and Arabic to Spanish. Suddenly, I understood little to nothing.
Despite the clear barrier, I felt an odd comfort of being in Europe. Europe felt like the U.S. Europe’s city streets were predictable. Catcalling wasn’t occurring from all sides. Men weren’t pointing at me and asking if I was Indian. It was almost too comfortable. I think the culture shock overcame me, but was quickly wiped away by the 30 degree winds.
Spain was two days of travel, tours, and trying tapas. The quick-paced plans were accompanied by me and my peers confusing four different languages.
When we were released for lunch, I realized me and my friends had clashing dietary restrictions. As a Muslim, I cannot eat pork, and for the first time in a couple months I had to actually be conscious of it again. It was something that I had grown up doing, but suddenly it seemed like such a burden. Along with this one of my other friends was Jewish and couldn’t have pork or fish. A couple of my other friends had several allergies that ranged from nuts to eggs.
At this moment I remember thinking about how I couldn’t wait to be back in Rabat. I then realized that Morocco had come to feel more like my true home than my actual house in Minnesota.
Realizations and reflections led me through my fall break trip. I felt in awe while in Paris, sitting just feet away from the Eiffel Tower, a monument I’d grown up hearing about. The tower's lights shone every hour, and I cried because of the beauty.
I stood proudly on Champs Elysees. I thought back to how when I was small and shy, my dad would correct people when they said my name wrong. He would always say, “her name is Aleezeh, ever heard of Champs Elysees?” When I asked my father what that meant he told me about how there was a beautiful street in Paris that sounded kind of like my name. I had literally spent my life waiting to actually be on this street and felt a sense of fullness as I posed for Instagram in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
A quick pass through Paris led me to London next. Airports and trains began to feel like the norm. It was my first time traveling solo. I felt layers of fear that as a woman I would be taken advantage of within the airport. I grew up with my parents not allowing me to stay out late, and always warning me of all the dangers in the world. As an adult, the fear followed me as I clutched onto my travel backpack tightly between flights, feeling just a bit too paranoid to sleep. I overcame these feelings slowly but remained cautious.
I had been to London before, multiple times, but the city always amazed me. My first look out at the skyline made my heart cartwheel inside of my chest. I felt an odd envy that I didn’t get to grow up in a big city like my cousins, whose house I was staying at. I decided to indulge in waffles and all the other snacks that I missed from the U.S.
My last flight home came in at 1 a.m. After hours of traveling, my Moroccan homestay bed welcomed me. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
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<p>I am an aspiring journalist and have many passions. I love to make videos, write, and learn new things. I have an interest in learning more about the world and using that knowledge to create equality for all.</p>