Today is November 26, 2016. About a month ago, I boarded a ship across the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow strip of water that connects the Atlantic and the Mediterranean sea, to Morocco. Despite encountering sea sickness and food sickness on my journey, my weekend in Morocco ended up being an experience of a lifetime that both opened my eyes and heart to a new culture.
When I first arrive in Morocco, I remember only being able to note the differences between me and the rest of the people there. I remember being struck by the traditional clothing, and the disproportionate amount of men on the streets in comparison to women, and I remember thinking there was no way I would be able to share similarities or worldviews with the people living there.
By the end of the trip, I clearly remember looking around a cafe and Chefchaouen and realizing everything around me felt so normal. I wasn’t noticing differences anymore, but rather, I was appreciating how familiar the lifestyle had come to be. Through our unique experience with IES Abroad we were able to meet and interact one on one with real students and families from Morocco, I learned so much about the people, their perspectives, their culture, and moreover, how unifying kindness can be.
Throughout the weekend, I was very touched by the generosity of all the people we met. When I was sick, our Moroccan guide searched all day to find me medicine, the family we stayed with for two days in Rabbat made us feel so comfortable and welcome into their homes, and the family we visited in a rural community with limited roads and electricity made food for twenty people, despite not having much for themselves.
When I think about the problems that affect much of the world with our fear of the “other”, I’m sad that not everyone can have the same opportunity as I had in Morocco, to interact with and connect with people who appear different than us. It doesn’t take long to realize that there are more similarities than differences, and that our differences in the end, are not that big nor that important. Despite our different religions we discovered that we all wanted to root our lives and beliefs in love. Despite our language barriers we were able to communicate with each other and laugh together and discover that kindness was a universal language.
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Nicole Von Wilczur
My name is Nicole von Wilczur, from Phoenix, Arizona. I'm a rising college junior attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. When I'm not studying, I enjoy fighting for social justice, being outdoors, photography, and learning to recite the lyrics to 90's and early 2000's rap songs. I've never traveled outside of the US, so I am very excited for the opportunity to be studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and sharing my experiences with you!