A Semester in Morocco

This blog entry was submitted by Sarah Al-Shaikh, who studied abroad in Morocco.
Featured photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash.

 

“My time abroad has broadened my horizons in ways a classroom could’ve never taught me or a documentary never shown me. I was challenged to live by a worldview different to what I’m used to and adjust to cultural norms I’ve never lived by. I met people with beliefs and traditions different to my own and held conversations in a language new to my tongue. I saw things you only see in movies but could never dream of; the architecture, patterns, colors, gardens, mosques, people, foods, smells, sounds, and breathtaking Medinas of Morocco are forever imprinted in my mind.

Living abroad has given me a new sense of confidence and certainty in my independence. When you move out of a home and into a dorm/apartment while in college, you are challenged to be independent but still have all your safety blankets readily available; mom is just a 3-hour drive away. But while living in Morocco, I had no safety blanket. Mom was a 20-hour plane ride away. Simple things like going to the grocery store or to the gym (things I wouldn’t think twice about doing) now seemed like not so easy tasks when you aren’t familiar with the area, the language, and (in the case of Morocco) were most likely going to get street harassment as a women going anywhere at anytime. I struggled with this new independence in the beginning of my time abroad; specifically dealing with the constant street harassment. It took a while, but I promised myself I wouldn’t let the worry of harassment stop me from living my study abroad experience to the fullest. I wouldn’t lock myself in; I would confidently go out into my new environment and experience it. I am happy to have learned this in Morocco and to be taking back this strengthened confidence and independence back home with me.

Morocco has taught me to say “inshallah,” (Arabic for God willing) more often because nothing in this life is certain. I’ve learned from Moroccans that no matter how much you plan something down to the last second, life changes and you have to go with it and not against it. Living in a country where there aren’t really capitalistic or consumeristic values has taught me that the relationships you build with others and the good deeds you do for your community are the real things that matter; material goods come and go, but the friendships you make and who you are make a lasting impression. Morocco has taught me a lot about Islamic societies; something we aren’t typically taught in Western classrooms. My classes abroad were all centered around Islamic society, politics, and art; as well as media and peace and conflict in the Middle East. I’ve learned so much not only about a region I am focusing my Global studies on, but about a region close to my heart and heritage. In the states I never had the opportunity to take many classes solely on Islamic studies, so taking only Islamic studies while abroad has helped my own understanding of a region where half of my heritage is from. I’ve learned about certain causes for the decline of Islamic societies, and have brainstormed ways in which growth is possible for this region.

Most importantly, my time abroad has taught me that my values, the values I have been taught from my family, the media around me, my friends, school, society, etc., aren’t universal. Everyone from every part of the world, carry different traditions and beliefs. It is important, if you have the opportunity, to travel and learn from these values and traditions different to your own. That’s how you develop and grow as a person; when you are truly able to take off your safety blanket and broaden your horizons. ”

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