Two weeks to go until I leave for Rabat and already I can see the city in my mind! In this whirlwind of anticipation, anxiety, and elation, all I can think about is what I’m going to wear. The Moroccan environment will not be one I’m used to, with intense heat and humidity. My summer wardrobe, though great for the heat, is unfortunately not up to the modesty standards of the country. So step one? We’re going shopping. Linens, light cottons, anything lightweight that’ll cover my shoulders. Next up? Vaccinations. The last thing I’d want in a foreign country is to miss out on the Medina because I’ve contracted a deadly virus. Oh, and I can’t forget about figuring out the exact right books to bring that will keep me entertained for four months, but also not weigh down my entire suitcase (spoiler alert, I splurged and bought a kindle).
Getting stuck on these smaller details is a great distraction from the much bigger beast in sight: actually leaving. I’ve only left the United States a handful of times, and never for more than a week. Four months in a completely foreign country feels like a fever dream. But it’s happening! I couldn’t possibly be more excited, and also couldn’t possibly be more afraid. Those two emotions have collided in the ever-present all-encompassing reaction of learning as much as I possibly can about Morocco. I’ve turned into a Wikipedia stalker, learning about camel migration patterns and the King’s cousins’ son’s pet turtle. It’s become the perfect distraction, and coping mechanism, for my lack of knowledge. Whenever I’m hit with a wave of nervousness that I won’t be able to figure out the tram system or how to barter in the markets, I simply pull up Encyclopedia Britannica articles on Rabat’s historical presence and history of pirates.
While this stalking of Morocco’s past may not be necessary (or healthy), it has helped me release some of the stress I have over my deep lack of knowledge. Everything I’ve learned in school about the country is very surface level, and the few people I’ve known who have visited haven’t had much to say beyond “it’s beautiful. And wait until you try the couscous!” The truth is, this process is really scary. I’ve always liked carving my own path, but still, in this waiting period, the uncertainty is a little overwhelming.
It’s okay to be afraid, and it’s okay to stay up way too late watching videos of Moroccan pop stars on YouTube. This anticipation is a natural part of knowing something big is about to happen in your life, but not quite knowing how that thing will affect you.
In the meantime, I’ve put together a list of shoes (one pair of tennis, two sandals, and one pair of boots, just in case). Working on the little details, like class syllabuses, and making sure my passport is updated, provide me with the small knowledge of control. This journey is going to be one that sticks with me for the rest of my life. For now, all I can do is keep that fear bundled deep within the excitement, hold on to it, and wait for it to unleash in fourteen short days.
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Zoe Carver is a second-year student of International Affairs and Peace Studies at the George Washington University, minoring in French and Creative Writing. She is originally from Portland, Oregon and is apart of GW's Literary Magazine, Model UN team, and Student Climate Coalition. She just finished a positon interning in the United States Senate, and has a deep love for crocheting.