Valentine's Day Wisdom

Cristian Gutierrez
February 18, 2015

Valentine’s Day has just passed, and I was lucky enough to spend the holiday weekend in Morocco.  Two friends and I began the journey Thursday in Marrakech and eventually made our way to the capital city of Rabat.  My time spent in Morocco was unlike anything I have ever experienced before, while most were spending a romantic day with their significant other, I experienced culture shock for the first time in my life and it caused me to take a step back to reflect on my experience abroad. I realized how fortunate I am to be having this experience, and in the spirit of the Valentine’s Day weekend just passing I would love to share what I’m loving about my study abroad experience.

There have been no shortage of moments to love abroad, but what I’ve truly loved most is the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone to experience something new.  I have had these moments throughout my time abroad, whether it was trying traditional seafood tapas in Granada, roaming the outdoor markets of Lisbon, or bartering with the locals of Morocco. In each of these situations I felt lost, especially in Lisbon and Morocco where the language barrier caused difficulties in communication, but what I found was a rush of excitement and hunger for more.

This ability to learn and live other cultures is a surreal experience. I’ve realized everywhere in the world there are fundamentally good people, you just have to be open and willing to search for them. This past weekend in Rabat, a friend and I were wandering the souks when all of a sudden a vendor pulls my friend to the side and asks if she was the girl who visited last year. It turns out it was her, and the man proceeded to treat us as family, and even brought us traditional Moroccan mint tea and flatbread. He began to preach to us about the situation in Morocco, but his most important lesson to us was to remember we are all one, we are all the same, we all come from the same matter and therefore we must love and treat each other as brother and sister. This hit home for me, and I believe we can all learn from this experience.  In the Valentine’s Day spirit, I ask that we don’t limit the love to one day; rather we should continue to appreciate the ones we love and treat others with the love and respect they deserve.

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Cristian Gutierrez

<p>Born and raised under the bright lights of Chicago, I was under the influence that I had seen it all. After my first trip abroad I was hooked, and I realized I couldn&rsquo;t of been more wrong. With a thirst for adventure I&rsquo;ve set out to explore the unknown during my summers off from school. My travels have taken me from ancient pyramids in Mexico to remote rainforests in Costa Rica, and now Spain is next up on the destination list. I can&rsquo;t wait for my time abroad and here I plan to document all valuable experiences and insights about my journey in Spain. Hala Madrid!&nbsp;</p>

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