It is with no small amount of trepidation that I embark on this journey. The wide array of unknowns before me…well, it’s a bit daunting. I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated my white privilege before this, but here I am, facing the idea of standing out like a sore thumb because of my skin color. I am accustomed to being relatively invisible, and I like it that way. In Morocco there will be no way for me to really blend in as I want to – I could cover my lack of hair, but that may make me look even more odd, since they do not expect United States of Americans to do so. I am rather at a loss.
Which brings me to the quintessential female question: What shall I wear?? I’ve heard conflicting reports about what is and isn’t acceptable to be considered modest. I’ve heard about the rampant sexual harassment on the streets, and I’m trying to avoid as much of that as possible… Some people say, “don’t wear jeans,” while others say “jeans are fine.” Some say “wear loose clothing, and make sure you are covered from wrist to ankle,” and others say, “T-shirts and skirts below the knee are fine.” I’ve heard both that Rabat is a very conservative city and that is a very cosmopolitan city. It has been recommended to me to avoid jewelry and to make sure to wear a wedding ring. What’s a girl to do?
I am also…well…I’m old(er). Most people who study abroad are healthy young’uns in their late-teens/early twenties. I’m in my thirties and so out of shape it isn’t even funny. The gritty realities of life (like using a squatty potty or walking everywhere) are going to be more difficult for me because of my knee problems. Which reminds me that I must get all my prescription medications taken care of before I leave. I also am not accustomed to having to answer to a parental figure when I want to go somewhere – I am so independent, it is going to be a big change to have to ask permission before I do anything.
All of this aside though, I know that this experience will be so good for me! The goal of studying in Morocco was to push me out of my comfort zone a bit, and it will certainly do that. I am probably over-thinking things and will enjoy myself, in spite of the little things that are causing me anxiety right now. The anticipation is making it very difficult to finish out the boring life stuff that has to happen before I actually get on the airplane. Ah well. I think I’m trying to prepare myself for culture shock, and if that were possible, it wouldn’t be culture shock…
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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 Kelila Johnson. I am a third-year student at Pitzer College majoring in International & Intercultural Studies with a regional emphasis on the Middle East and North Africa. I also work full-time as the manager of the campus coffee shop. I have been active in college governance, serving on committees in my capacity as a staff member and I am a proud member of Student Senate, where I represent the "New Resources Students" who are the non-traditional student population at Pitzer. In my free time I catch up on sleep, go to Disneyland, watch movies, read, and spend quality time with my cat. I love to travel, and I'm looking forward to improving my French language skills and experiencing a culture quite different from home.</span></p>