An American-Moroccan: A Year Later

I feel like if IES asked, i could write a reflection post on my time in Morocco every day. My time abroad is not just a monolithic period of time that i memorialize, but a series of experiences that permeates my everyday, American life. To simply think of my semester in Rabat as something that happened is to do an injustice to the people and life that exists and occurs there daily.

Thanks to the enthusiasm gained from studying abroad, i now work in the International Center here at Drake. In between making copies, I speak to classrooms about the benefits and awesomeness of studying abroad and i help the soon-to-be-traveling students with pre-departure work. It’s an absolute blast to work with students who don’t know what’s coming, that are in for an experience they can’t even fathom yet. It’s a cool rumination opportunity that i experience three times a week, to think back on what i was wondering or what worries i held before i left.

When i am eyeballs deep in essays, papers, deadlines, scheduling, and the equivalent amount of coffee to deal with it all, my mind finds it awfully easy to slip back to Rabat, where my hardest decision of the day normally involved what new cafe to visit. Not to say that everything was easy–on the contrary, immersing myself in a completely different life, culture, and family was one of the most challenging activities i’ve ever done. And i definitely did not accomplish everything that i had wanted to; I recall spending too much time on the internet and with my American classmates. I regret not venturing out and meeting more Moroccans my age. But i also understand that not many Moroccans know English, and my Arabic and French skills were/are fairly weak. Studying abroad is not a black or white, joyful or miserable task.

But for me, it was the right task. I needed to escape my suburban, middle-class bubble and see how others in the world live. So i did. I met people i had barely even considered to exist: shopkeepers who killed goats in the back of their store and sold the entrails in the front, street children who attempted to sell me packets of tissues to make a few cents, young women in the latest Western fashions who walked hand in hand (a symbol of friendship) with their counterparts in hijabs. They’re real people living their lives.

So i went and came back.  I’m lucky that i got to see much more of the world than most people do.  But it wasn’t easy. I carry the lessons i learned with me all the time. I wish i could have stayed longer. C’est la vie, maashi mushkil, qué será, será. And if i had learned Tamazight well enough, i’d probably say something similar in that language.