Sitting at my desk with the heat turned up to full blast, sensation begins to return to my raw, numb cheeks. It snowed two days ago, but it’s only gotten colder each day since, making each journey outside the comfort of my room an arctic expedition. It’s Reading Period at Princeton University, which means every single student is racing to write all their papers, do their problem sets and squeeze in some studying time before final exams. My desk is surrounded with books I’ve yet to read and assignments I’ve yet to do, but all I can think about is landing in Rabat next week and feeling the (reportedly) 60 degree sun warm my chilled bones.
So who is this frozen fellow? My name is Andrew Hanna, and I am AMIDEAST’s Blog Correspondent in Morocco for this spring semester. I’ll be updating every two weeks here on Mosaic with stories of my interactions, excursions and thoughts during my time abroad Through my posts, I hope to share my experiences with you and offer a glimpse of what life is like somewhere world apart from what most of us know.
But if you’re going to follow me on my adventures, you should get to know me a little bit better first. I am a junior at Princeton University, majoring in the department of Near Eastern Studies. My focus is on Egyptian politics and Arabic language study. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time in the region already, having lived in Egypt during the summer of 2011 and studied in Jordan in the summer of 2013. The reason I chose to travel to Morocco is because I’ve developed an interest in North African society and would like to broaden my horizons when it comes to my field of study.
Morocco fascinates me because of how culturally diverse it is. I grew up in a diverse household. My father is Egyptian and my mother is Korean. My entire life has been spent navigating between these two halves of my identity, trying to understand where I came from and what that means to me today.
I started language studies when I entered college, and have now completed classes in formal and Egyptian-colloquial Arabic. Despite over two years of classroom time, I’m still apprehensive about my language skills. The biggest challenge I know I’m going to face is forcing myself to speak out in conversation with everyday people. I’ve been told that Moroccans find the Egyptian dialect very funny, so at least that’s something I can comfort myself with when people start laughing at my Arabic.
Outside of my academic interests, I help run Model UN conferences at my school and work on an online food magazine. This year I’ve developed a deep passion for food, both as an art form, as well as a source of comfort in times of stress. I’m an abysmal cook myself, but I know how to chop up a mean salad. That’s why I’m extremely grateful to be living with a family next semester, if only to get the chance to try some real home-cooked Moroccan food. Now of course, I can’t wait to meet my new family and spend time with them, but the food is key.
Looking out my window I can appreciate (from inside) how beautiful the snow looks covering slate rooftops. But the towering pile of books on my desk and the wind whistling through window cracks remind me of how much I can’t wait to get to Morocco. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with all of you. Next time, from Rabat!