Time for the truth: For the past few months, every other day I would ask myself if I had made a mistake. I traveled for a month before this program, and after this, I’m moving on to do the IES Abroad Summer EU Program before traveling on my own for another six weeks. When I go back to the United States, I will have been abroad for eight months. Eight months is a long time. Regardless of where you are, being abroad means you’re pretty much at a constant state of low-grade discomfort. Plus, I miss Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and punctuality and burritos and my friends. But about three days ago I got to the point where I decided I was comfortable in this country. I will depart on Saturday.
Studying abroad comes with lots of challenges, and being in a country so drastically different from the United States makes those challenges seem so fundamental and insurmountable. One of the things that has been hardest to adjust to has been the Moroccan notion of privacy. There isn’t much of it. I of course have my own room in my homestay, but everyone can pretty much hear everything that is happening everywhere in the house. My host mom is like Santa Claus: She knows when I’m sleeping. She knows when I’m awake. She knows if I’ve been bad or good. More importantly, she knows when I’m pooping because the bathroom is in the most echo-y part of the house. And leaving the house is a whole event. If I leave the house, I know I will need to cross major roads with no crosswalks, navigate uneven/non-existent sidewalks, and ward off the plethora of male suitors who present themselves.
It’s the small things in studying abroad that take the biggest toll. But you become more and more comfortable with them day after day until all of a sudden, you’re home. Maybe it’s because of all the conversations I’ve had with other students about how different it will be back in the States or in Europe, but I know I will miss this place. Even though I’m continuing to travel for three months, the past four months here have been significant. This is the largest chunk of time I’m spending in one place, and leaving it is going to be uncomfortable. I have to go to a new place and make it home. Even though that place will be a little more like the United States than Morocco, it will still be new and difficult.
Travel is a funny thing. When you think you’ve got the hang of it, you get a new surprise. You learn lots of concrete things, like how to say, “Go away!” in Moroccan Arabic, or how much melui should cost in the medina. But you learn bigger things, too. You learn how to make a new place a home. You learn that the most permanent place you will live will be inside your own head.