Today, I’m writing my final blog post of the semester from my home in Portland, Oregon, back in the U.S. It feels wonderful but also very strange to be home, and I’m still adjusting back to speaking only English, using forks to eat dinner, dressing for winter temperatures, and being thrown into the height of holiday season. Morocco feels very far away (25 hours of travel back home made that clear) and simultaneously quite close (my dream last night took place in the train station in Rabat).
Our last week in Morocco was spent reflecting on our 4-month experience living in Rabat. We talked about what we had expected to miss most about the U.S., and what we had actually missed — independence, being able to express ourselves without language barriers, and efficiency. We also talked about the things we would miss about Morocco — the smells, colors, and sounds, taking our time and having no one rush us, bartering in the markets, meeting friendly strangers who helped us for nothing in return, sharing long sit-down meals, and constantly encountering new things.
We also had the opportunity to reflect with our Moroccan professors, including my Media Arabic professor who took us to his farm for orange picking, exploring, and couscous eating. I learned a lot in the classroom at AMIDEAST but even more from the experience of living life hands-on in Morocco, so it seemed appropriate to talk about what we’ve learned over the course of the semester while juicing oranges on a farm outside of Rabat.
Part of what felt particularly sad about leaving was the feeling that I had thrown so much of myself into the place I was living for the last four months — stepping constantly outside of my comfort zone, trying to speak and understand the language, to be culturally appropriate, and to have fun and express myself in a Moroccan context — and would now be leaving that behind. In my last week in Morocco, I was able to feel proud of how far I had come since my first weeks in the country. When I could successfully navigate an issue or when a Moroccan complimented my Darijah, that gave me a sense of accomplishment and validation, particularly because of how huge of an adjustment it was to get to that point. But I tried to frequently remind myself, amidst sad goodbyes to my favorite café owners, friends, and host family in Rabat, that even though it might feel like I was leaving behind everything I had worked so hard to accomplish in Morocco, I would truly be carrying the experience and what I learned from it back with me to the states.
Memories from my favorite excursions to Zawiyat Ahansal, Chefchaouen, and Fez, my Arabic language skills, my relationships with members of my host family, and a deeper understanding of daily life in a Muslim country and of Moroccan and North African culture are some of the things I hope will stick with me as I return to my life in the U.S. I will continue to study Arabic and build on my knowledge of North Africa and the Middle East, stay in touch with my host siblings, and as per the advice of one of our professors, I will always be planning the return trip — whether for research, vacation, or work at some point in the future.
I am so grateful to my family and friends back at home, to my advisors at Brown, to my professors and directors at AMIDEAST, to my host family, and to all my friends with me in Morocco for supporting me and encouraging me in what was undoubtedly one of the most impactful and inspiring experiences of my life. Thank you so much for an unforgettable four months. Until next time, Morocco!