A little over one year ago I was standing in the middle of the medina in the fabled Moroccan city of Marrakech. I was the typical tourist, swirling around snapping photos of everything in sight – the snake charmers mystifying onlookers, performers juggling lit torches, apes resting on the shoulders of their caretakers and more.
The Koutoubia Mosque, the largest mosque in the city, stood perfectly centered in between rows of palm trees and streetlights. It was my first time in Africa, let alone Morocco, and I loved it.
At the time I was on a brief getaway from my studies in Italy. I spent my freshman year of university studying in Florence, using my long weekends to visit European destinations that once seemed exotic and out-of-hand, but were now feasible excursions.
I learned a lot that year, too much to fit into this post, but most of all I finished my freshman year thinking, “I need to go back to Morocco.”
In a mere three days I’ll be back there, but this time to do more than watch street performers and snap a few photos.
Along with 31 other students, I’ll be immersed in Rabat to live among the locals and attempt to crack the surface of Moroccan daily life. Together, we’ll fight through language barriers, adjust to the food, get lost navigating local transportation systems, barter with shop owners aiming to rip us off, find comfort in our favorite cafés, acquire a keen sense of what it means to be a Moroccan, and study a little bit in between. At least these are my hopes.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but I hope to get lost on the ONCF (Morocco’s main railway operator). I want to eat something that looks disgusting. I want to ask a passerby directions to get somewhere, but have no idea what he or she is saying and have to figure it out on my own. These are the types of situations that teach the most.
So, in honor of all the challenges and memorable experiences that lie ahead, I’ll leave you with a short passage from the May 2014 edition of the National Geographic Traveler Magazine.
“‘Don’t tell me how educated you are; tell me how much you have traveled.’ Every wayfarer instinctively understands this maxim. But can it still be true in an era of Wikipedia and 360-degree Google Street View panoramas, when countless facts about the world (and innumerable photos of it) are available 24/7 from our laptops and smartphones? Ah, but travel, when done deeply and thoughtfully, doesn’t just mete out the data. It opens us to truth and wonder. Immersion in another culture rewires our brains and makes room for information to organize itself into intelligence.”
Cheers to an awesome semester in Rabat!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Brennan Weiss and I am an aspiring international news reporter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am a Journalism major with French and Global Studies minors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Since spending my freshman year of university in Florence, Italy, I’ve grown to love adventure and travel. I hope my work as an international journalist allows me to navigate the world endlessly until every culture, land, and people has been met.</span></p>