When we first arrived in Morocco, our orientation included a warning that all study abroad students will go through many different stages of emotion in their relationship to their new host country. These involve honeymoon periods in which everything seems “shiny and new,” periods in which everything becomes overwhelming, and even periods of resentment due to the change and homesickness. There’s no set rule of how these feelings progress, and some days I have experienced a little bit of each all in the same day. During the first few weeks, most of my time felt like the “honeymoon” stage. I fell in love with Rabat and the people around me. I still love Rabat and every part of my life here. However, as the stress of midterms has crept up and combined with daily stressors of navigating a new culture, I have admittedly experienced a higher percentage of the latter emotions lately.
Sometimes in Morocco, I feel exactly like the girl pictured here:
Rabat may be smaller than cities like Casablanca or Marrakesh, but it shares the same loud character, busy, crowded streets, and fast pace. This is not necessarily a bad thing! I often love feeling swept up in the bustle, noise, and movement of people going about their lives. What might seem like “chaos” or “disorder” to someone accustomed to tamer Midwest city avenues can also feel exciting and full of vibrant life. However, it also makes going out and about an event that requires me to stay on my toes, whether it is to avoid being run over by wild traffic, or to mentally steel myself against street harassment.
To me, the biggest change in perception living here has been of feeling comfortable in the busyness and noise of a bustling city, to then having the need to be alert to urban realities grow tiring. So, I took a break from them! Even though it was the weekend before midterms, I decided I needed a daytrip out of the city. I went to the beautiful and calm seafront village of Asilah. I spent the 3-4 hour train ride studying and watching the landscape change from Rabat, to desert, to rolling hills of the Mid-Atlas until we reached the coast again further north. I then spent the day strolling through pristine and art-covered walls of Asilah’s gorgeous old medina, and sank my feet into the sand and ocean water to breath in the fresh wind.
It was a good reminder that my frustrations were not truly with “Morocco”: this experience was part of Morocco too! I also thought about how it would be if I lived in a smaller, subdued town like Asilah. After just a few hours, I felt like I had seen most of it. I was constantly bemused at how empty and devoid of life the streets seemed in comparison to the rambunctious crowds of Rabat’s old medina. I am glad that Morocco contains so much to explore and so many different kinds of places to experience, and I came back to Rabat ready to rejoin the throngs of locals also experiencing the many joys and risks of city life. Now, I am about to leave again; this time, for Italy for Fall Break. I am excited to again get some outside perspective from Morocco, but I am equally eager to return to the people and places that are my crazy beautiful home