I’ve been in Morocco for 9 weeks now, with each week bringing new learning experiences and more adventures than the last.
I went to Italy a few weeks ago, and although I loved it, I felt at home the instant the plane flew over the Moroccan border. There’s something about it here that’s completely indescribable.
I remember spending the months leading up to my study abroad experience in a constant haze of confusion. I was excited about leaving the US for the first time alone, about my roommates, about learning Arabic (which is amazing), and of course, the food. While at the same time, I had numerous friends and family constantly “informing” me about what they “knew” regarding Muslims, Arab countries, and Morocco in general.
“Morocco’s a Muslim country?” “Watch out for terrorists!” “It’s not safe.” “You’re going to appreciate America so much more when you get back.” “Never walk alone.” “You should dye your hair before you go.” “Do you have to wear a burka?” I heard these phrases repeatedly whenever I mentioned my study abroad location of choice. It was confusing at the time and made me extremely nervous about my future here.
Looking back at these moments, I realize how little Americans (myself included) pay attention to the world around us. The incredible unknown that is our backyard. The awesome people that are waiting to meet us! The bulk of us are completely ignorant when it comes to other countries. We call ourselves the “melting pot,” yet we only see the catastrophic events portrayed on the news and further decide to generalize and form stereotypes.
Morocco has changed me – and it’s definitely for the better. The way I view the world, other cultures, other people, and myself, is completely different from 9 weeks ago. I’ve realized there’s more to life than reality TV, having the newest cool technology available, or even paying $5 for a Starbucks coffee. I’m now capable of thinking and speaking for myself, traveling independently, managing money, having faith in others, and seeing things from an outsider’s perspective.
Morocco is a country bursting with life and diversity, filled with people who have a passion for life and helping others. I honestly couldn’t pin-point my favorite memory so far. Mostly because my adventure is only half way over… and I know I’ve only scratched the surface.
Morocco is one big, jumbled up, beautiful masterpiece of the most hospitable, happy, and loving people. Who knew I would find a place to call home in a country that has a desert, mountains, snow, rain, waterfalls, the beach, rural fields and modern industrial cities all wrapped into one? It’s brilliant. Brilliant and beautiful.
I know that when I leave Morocco in a little over a month, I’ll be leaving a piece of me here.
I also know that traveling is supposed to change a person – but truly, in the end, traveling to Morocco will change the way you look at other people. And it’s definitely for the better.
This was a guest contribution from So…Why Morocco?. The writer, Sydney is a student at the University of Arkansas, currently studying abroad in Africa. Her blog, So…Why Morocco?, gives personal insight on a woman’s perspective on living, studying, and traveling in and outside Morocco. For more reading, join the fun in her brilliant blog.