السلام عليكم. Peace be upon you. My name is Douglas Tatz and I will be the blog correspondent for the Arabic language program here in Rabat, Morocco. I am very excited to both enjoy Moroccan culture and to share it with others as well. I am from Columbus, Ohio, and am a student at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where I am studying diplomacy with minors in Arabic and economics. As the eighth of ten children, I have learned many skills and habits that are useful for travelling abroad, such as being accustomed to a hectic household and living modestly. My large family has also made me appreciative of the importance of family life, and I enjoy strong relationships with my parents and each of my siblings. Some of my hobbies include unicycling, backpacking, and travelling.
There are two main reasons I have decided to study abroad in Morocco. The first reason is my brother-in-law, Hassan, who is from a small city called Guelmim, here in Morocco. He has helped me with my Arabic many times (although sometimes it was tricky for him to transition from his colloquial Moroccan dialect to the standard Arabic that is taught in the classroom) and would share stories about Morocco. Thanks to Hassan, I routinely enjoyed the unique cultural experience of mint tea before even travelling to Morocco. In the week that I have been here as of this writing, I have discovered that his descriptions of Morocco were accurate, but only gave a fuzzy image of the vibrant culture. Furthermore, Hassan has partially inspired the second reason that I chose to study abroad in Morocco. Even though I have only travelled to another country once (I spent two weeks in Spain last summer), I have always heard about other cultures through my siblings’ travels, kindling my own desire to experience other ways of life. As a result, I am enthusiastic about continuing my studies of the Arabic language because of the many people I will be able to communicate with. I enjoy meeting new people and learning from them about their culture and experiences. Despite the brief amount of time that I have studied Arabic and my limited knowledge of the culture, I am already well aware of the misperceptions about foreigners and especially about Muslims that abound in America. I hope to eventually learn the language and cultures enough to help dispel the many stereotypes that hamper peaceful relations between America and the Arab world.
I am excited to learn about Moroccan culture, but I expect I will have to push myself to make the most of my experience. Visiting a new country can bring you far from your comfort zone, but it is in these situations you learn the most. Because of the cultural differences, I think living with a host family will bring both the greatest joys and challenges. However, I am confident that my new family will help me immerse myself in the culture and make my time in Morocco an unforgettable experience.