Not only do I try to spend as much of my time enjoying the day-to-day culture of Morocco, I keep busy with the academic side of things also. So, I was pretty excited when my Fall break finally came. I really wrestled with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I wanted to make the most of my time in Morocco, but it could be a long time before I would be this close to Europe again. In the end, I decided to spend my time in Spain (and actually Portugal too, after a spontaneous decision to alter my itinerary). During my travels, I met quite a few other American students also studying abroad. We went through the usual routine of asking about each other’s background and current activities. Some of them were surprised to discover that a fellow American student was studying in Morocco, while some others weren’t at all impressed by this information. I suppose both of their outlooks make sense to me – I think that studying abroad anywhere takes a certain amount of initiative and sense of adventure. At the same time, Morocco is a bit off the beaten path and however true (or false), has a reputation for being a land of magic and mystery.
If you want to study abroad, you have to be determined and persistent. As easy as any university makes it to study abroad, all students will face a variety of difficulties when applying for their program overseas. For example, I was passed like a hot potato from teacher to administrator, trying to track down syllabi for the classes I would be taking here to give to administrators at home to ensure that my credits would transfer. My greatest challenge was that my scholarship to my home university would not apply towards my program here in Morocco. Despite these obstacles, they were relatively minor in the end, and it has been totally worth it to study here. I firmly believe that you can’t put a price on studying abroad – for every student, it’s a unique and remarkable experience.
There are several reasons why I decided to study abroad in the Middle East/North Africa region, and more specifically, Morocco. As I briefly mentioned when I introduced myself, I first and foremost wanted somewhere to continue my studies of the Arabic language. I’m often asked why I decided to study Arabic, and I suppose it’s because it seems as though so many Americans *don’t* know it…or anything else about Arabic speaking peoples. Many Americans have some serious misperceptions about the Arab world, probably stemming primarily from the misleading sensationalism of the media. I am fortunate to have a brother in law from Morocco who is a wonderful guy and has been instrumental in helping me avoid misinformation. I hope to deepen my knowledge of the Arabic language, Islam, and the Arab world so that I can help to dispel some of these stereotypes that others have. Furthermore, Morocco isn’t exactly the mysterious, romantic land as it’s frequently portrayed to be. To me, it’s even more magical than people imagine, but this manifests itself in different ways. While Morocco does indeed have old cities that enthrall visitors with a rush of colors, smells, and sounds, and has the awe-inspiring boundlessness of the desert, I am constantly fascinated by how diverse Moroccan culture is, especially when it comes to the influence from the period of colonization under the French and its impacts on the traditional Moroccan styles of living. Morocco allows me to immerse myself not only in Arabic, helping me to better grasp the language, but in a culture that seamlessly blends what might ordinarily seem like irreconcilable differences.