“When do you leave for study abroad? Morocco… that’s the country in the movie Casablanca, right? Aren’t you scared to travel by yourself? Why would you study there instead of somewhere like London or Paris? So, do they speak Moroccan in Morocco?” The questions just kept coming before I even knew the answers.
I guess when you’re from a small western Pennsylvanian town, your only exposure to Morocco is in movies or songs (my mom only knew about it from the Crosby, Stills and Nash song “Marrakesh Express”). I can always rely on my mom though to save me from the barrage of questions by simply saying, “We don’t know much about Morocco, but Dan is certainly going tell us about it, whether we want him to or not.”
My dog Rocky and I at American University
Before I attempt to answer any of these questions, some introductions are in order. My name is Dan Fitzgerald and I am originally from Pittsburgh, but now I am a Washingtonian (DC). I was born and raised in the classic all-American, middle-class town of Harrison City, PA where the high school football pride was strong and the diner food was endless. I lived in that perfect suburb zone where you can either be attracted to the wild back-country living of Pennsylvania or the fast-pace, urban city life of Pittsburgh. I’ve always been attracted to city life and the many cultures that flourish there. This was a major reason why I decided I was going to move myself down to Washington DC at 18 years old and study International Studies and Economics at American University, because I love putting myself in new situations. Looking back at some of my most memorable moments, almost all of them involved putting myself out of my comfort zone. I have traveled alone to several cities in the U.S. and most recently to London and Paris, my first time ever leaving the country, and I have had extraordinary adventures in every single place.
Aside from travel and shenanigans, I like to think I’m an interesting person. I can sing the entire album of Hamilton nonstop, I can read tarot cards and predict your future, and I enjoy long walks with my dog Rocky. Above all I love meeting new people and getting to know their stories, like Humans of New York. But it’s time for a new adventure in my life, and that is why I am writing this blog to record my semester abroad in Rabat, Morocco with AMIDEAST to perfect my French, and to try and document as much as I possibly can.
Why study in Morocco you might ask? Why not study in France or Belgium if you want to practice French? It would certainly make my parents’ lives easier and they wouldn’t need to worry about my safety in a non-Western country. That’s an excellent question blog reader, and the answer is simple: because Morocco is not France or Belgium. Granted, so many of my friends will be studying abroad in these places and I commend them since studying abroad is an amazing experience anywhere. However, I wanted something more, something that would challenge my normal way of life back in the United States. I wanted a culture that would push me to reevaluate what I consider normal back home and understand the values and perspectives of those in another country.
Prep before the 4,000-mile flight
However, I’m still going to live it up in Morocco! I’m excited to explore the entire country as much as possible in five months, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the dusty town of Zagora in southern Morocco. That’s the exciting thing about studying abroad, the possibilities for adventure are vast and endless. In just a few days, I’ll be flying 4,000 miles across the ocean and that’s astonishing to admit. If I had to admit one fear for this coming adventure, it would honestly be missing my flights. But even if that happens, I’m going to embrace the experience and blog about it later. C’est la vie et à bientôt Rabat!