Preparing for my Semester Abroad in Rabat

Mariama Regaignon headshot
Mariama Regaignon
August 31, 2023

When I submitted my application to study abroad in Rabat, Morocco, it felt very abstract. I’ve never really traveled alone before, never been an ocean away from everyone I know and love. But here I am, just a few days before I leave, and it’s only just starting to feel real. I’m researching what to pack, what to expect in terms of local customs, and how best to stay in touch with my friends and family. I’ve been taking Arabic for the past year in preparation, but I’ve recently found out that Moroccan colloquial Arabic, or Darija, is about as far as it gets from the Modern Standard Arabic I’ve been learning. My classes aren’t scheduled yet. I don’t know much about my host family yet, if I’ll like them, or if I’ll make friends. I’m in an anxious, breathless waiting period. 

When I was eight years old and my sister was five, my mom had a year of sabbatical and my dad was working from home, so they moved our family to France. (My dad is French, and wanted us to speak the language, but my mom is not, so we’ve never spoken much French at home.) My sister and I were enrolled in French public school without much French beyond “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Where is the bathroom, please?” Those first few months were infinitely harder than anything I’ve done before or since. Eight-year-olds anywhere are far from welcoming, and it’s much harder to make friends when you don’t speak the language, let alone know the unspoken codes or have the right Littlest Pet Shop figurines or Monster High collectible cards. But I fought my way through! By the end of the fall semester, I was in the top of the class in reading comprehension, and I was playing cards or make-believe games with my friends every day in the school yard. My sister and I were out at play dates and birthday parties every weekend and using the subjunctive without a second thought. 

When I look ahead at my four months in Morocco, I’m trying to summon up the strength and courage of my eight-year-old self, a shy, anxious little girl who was plunged headfirst into a world fathoms away from everything she’d ever known and not only managed to keep her head afloat, but swam laps around her classmates. I don’t remember exactly what it felt like to leave my home that summer, but if I’d known then how it would turn out, I don’t think I would’ve been afraid at all. And ultimately, I’m doing as much as I can to be logistically prepared for Morocco, but I don’t think I’ll ever really feel like I’m ready. And that’s okay! I don’t need to feel ready; I just need to trust the process. I chose Morocco specifically because it was new and different for me, because it was so far outside of my comfort zone, and I know that if I thrived that year in France, I can do anything I set my mind to. I gained so much understanding of myself and the world from that year, and I know I’ll gain even more from living in a place so different from my home. I just have to approach this semester abroad less as a step into the unknown, and more as a leap of faith. 

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Mariama Regaignon headshot

Mariama Regaignon

I'm from NYC and attend Bryn Mawr College near Philly! I'm passionate about film, social justice, backpacking, fashion, jewelry-making, reading, and plant-based cooking. When I'm at home I love exploring the city or hanging out with my two cats.

2023 Fall
Home University:
Bryn Mawr College
Religious Studies
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