“Shanté is a world traveler! She is going to study in Moscow for a semester!” I try to correct my mother and sister as they talk to their friends about my upcoming adventure. Even when I tell them I will be in Morocco, not Moscow, I can still see the excitement in their eyes. They may tell people the wrong destination, but just to say I will be on my way to a distant land makes them proud.
My name is Shanté Fencl and I am a 21 year old college student from a small town just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. I am a junior at American University in Washington, DC studying International Relations with a focus in the Middle East and Northern Africa. My favorite things to do involve acting, testing how much coffee I can have in a day, and watching an overwhelming amount of TV shows. I also love exploring the beautiful state parks of Ohio with my friends, and singing (poorly) in my car as we drive around on Midwest roads. Above all, I love to travel. Ever since I was a little girl my dad would teach me how to navigate my way around my state. Now I am preparing to find my way in a place I have never been before. I am writing this blog to record my semester abroad in Rabat, Morocco with AMIDEAST. In just a few days I will get on a plane to start this new chapter of my life and while I am very excited, I am so nervous. The inability to communicate in Arabic is what scares me the most. I know my language skills will improve, but those first few weeks are always the hardest.
The concept of study abroad is not new to me. I was an exchange student in high school to a town outside of Mantova, Italy. I lived there for a year with a family that spoke no English and my level of Italian stopped at “ciao,” and “pizza.” The experience not only allowed me to become fluent in Italian, but I walked away with a new home and a new family. I still go back to visit them often and I talk to them just as much as I talk to my natural family. I guess you can say this is my major motivation for studying abroad this semester in Morocco. I am looking for an opportunity to create another home away from home. Having friends and family from different cultures allows me to see the world from multiple perspectives, and I can’t wait to see what will come of my time in Morocco.
Aside from gaining a new perspective and making new friends, I hope to give something back during my time abroad. This semester of my life will not only have an impact on me, but those that I come in contact with while on program. I want to give them a glimpse into my culture as well. I already plan on bringing along tons of buckeyes, a chocolate and peanut butter delicacy in my home state of Ohio. But sharing culture is about so much more than passing out sweet treats, it’s about being a representative of what it means to be from that place.
Representing my nation is one of the reasons I decided to study abroad in the Arab World. I want to bring a positive image of my country abroad, all while showing my friends and family back home the beauty of different cultures. This is why writing this blog is so important. I encourage all of you reading this to follow me along my journey and see for yourself the wonderful things you can discover outside of your comfort zone. I invite you to watch as this story of mine unfolds, even if I, myself, have no clue what is in store for me. I guess we will find out together! Before I get on that plane, I want to say thank you to my family, friends, teachers, and supporters. I could not have made it here without you.