“The Unexpected Cats of Rabat” by Daniel Fitzgerald

For many people, a single day can change their entire lives. This can either be getting married, going off to college, having their first child, you name it. I knew that studying abroad in Morocco would be an exciting, new experience. However I never realized how much it would impact me in a single day.

I’m not going to lie, I expected the typical transition into my education abroad program that all my other friends were experiencing on their programs in Europe. Taking the classic photos of grand cathedrals and clock towers, going to the bars or clubs with friends they already knew from school, and speaking English with the locals around them. So many study abroad programs advertised in the United States hype up this feeling of easy transition into the culture, and that you will feel right at home in your new country. Boy, was I thankfully wrong.

I flew into Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport on a late Saturday night and immediately was shocked by the cultural adjustment of just going through immigration. It was almost like a free-for-all for whoever could get to the front of the line first. “Is this your first time visiting Morocco?” the security agent asked me. “Yes,” I responded in a jet-lagged voice. “You’re in for an adventure.” Everything I saw during my taxi ride from Casablanca to Rabat far exceeded any expectations I had for my entire semester. I saw children playing soccer in the streets off the highway exit, donkey carts strolling along BMWs, and not to mention the driving of all the cars which seemed to view road laws as a “light suggestion.”

 

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Picture of the Atlantic Ocean

 

For my first official day, I expected to be lectured on policies, class assignments, and all the other typical subjects of a study abroad program. Again, my expectation did not match reality thankfully. Our program planned a four-hour van-and-walking tour of the most famous sites of Rabat, from the famous Medina to the Mausoleum of Hassan II. Have you ever seen 50 cats in the span of two hours? Because I can say I have. I have seen more cats here, in fact, than I have seen in my entire life. Little did I know that I would already meet some of my greatest friends on the program through our shared love of cats.

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The king Cat in the Chellah

I honestly never could have imagined some of things I would see in Morocco in my entire life. Shall I count off the list:

  1. The tomb of the king that survived Moroccan colonization and independence
  2. A movie shooting in the Medina of Rabat
  3. The pouring of 7 glasses of tea that I thought could only be done in the hot chocolate scene in the movie Polar Express

The list could go on and on. But the biggest expectation that was far surpassed within the first day was making deep connections with those around me in Morocco. I thought these kinds of connections take months to create and foster, but what I found out is that you only need to be open and accepting to new situations and everything will fall in place. Isn’t that a funny lesson for study abroad? Just be prepared for everything to come.

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