For the past week and a half I have felt so strange, like the world I am now inhabiting isn’t real. Or maybe it’s Morocco that isn’t real, and I’ve just woken up from a dream. The first few days back in the States, I kept looking at my phone, adding four hours to the time, and imagining what was happening in Rabat and what my host family was doing at that time. 3pm here – almost time to break the fast in Morocco. Getting ready for bed at 11pm – my host family must be getting up for suhoor before sunrise. To have been there just days ago and to now be in suburban Connecticut, adjusting to my family’s summer routine (after a day spent speeding over the Atlantic Ocean in an aluminum tube above) is just surreal.
It’s also disorienting to be surrounded by so many Americans and so many people who speak English. I spent this semester living with the constant knowledge that I was a foreigner and that that’s what people saw when they looked at me. I’ve gotten used to switching between French, Darija, Fusha, and English every day, not being able to understand a lot of what was going on around me, and having to put in extra effort to communicate with people. All of a sudden here I am, where most of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis speak my language and share my nationality, and hardly give a thought to Morocco.
Coming back to the States has also been rather lonely. I spent the past four months seeing my study abroad friends every day, but now we’ve all dispersed to our various homes or other summer adventures. This loneliness is compounded by the fact that my family moved to Connecticut just at the end of last summer and that I’ve spent less than two months here in total. Except for being reunited with my family, Rabat feels more like home than the place I’ve come home to.
In some ways, this feels like a smaller-scale version of what it felt like when my family moved back to the States from Egypt when I was a kid. The ache of no longer being a foreigner but still feeling out of place, especially in the place where you’re supposed to belong. The loss of leaving behind a country that isn’t yours but that has been a home for you, not knowing if you’ll ever get the chance to go back but knowing that things won’t be the same when you do. I think part of why I wasn’t ready to leave Morocco was because I was afraid of this, because I spent many years feeling like this, like the entire first half of my life wasn’t real, that maybe it was a dream.
But my experiences living abroad this year have also made the world so much more real to me again. And now I’m (sort of) an adult and (scary as it is) soon I’ll be a college graduate and it’ll be up to me to decide where and how to pursue my life. I have the means and the will to continue to foster the friendships I developed this semester, despite distances, and I have the never-ending support of my family, who makes anywhere home. I am more motivated than ever to continue working on my Arabic and other languages, because I’ve seen this year how I have the ability to not just study but to actually use other languages in real life. I know for sure that I want to live overseas again in the future. And while I miss the thrill of being able to communicate with a taxi driver in Darija, the ready availability of melwi, the familiar exasperation of navigating the crowded medina, and so much more… I’ll cherish these experiences and carry them with me as I encounter new ones, wherever those might be.
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<p>I am a long-time bibliophile, choir nerd, and language lover who isn't really "from" anywhere. The closest thing I have to a hometown is Ambler, Pennsylvania, where I lived throughout middle and high school, but I also lived in England and Egypt as a child, and my parents now live in Connecticut I now go to college in Washington DC!</p>