so the Honors Program, who gave me money to go to morocco, asked me to write an article for their newsletter about my experience. and it finally gave me a chance to sit down and write about my time there. granted, its not even touching on how amazing it was, or how incredible the people were. but nothing in words ever could.
so here you go:
Ana kountoo fe al-Maghreb. I was in Morocco. It is one of those incredible, ludicrous, surreal, amazing experiences and ideas that completely change your perception on the way your life works. You stand there and think about how ridiculous that actually sounds, For my spring break, I went to Morocco. Who says that? One of those dreamlike moments, and there I was. In the middle of Morocco surrounded by over two hundred amazing individuals and nineteen different cultures, living the dream… maybe I should start at the beginning.
In September, when I was just a Recently Acquired Techie, I was dragged to an information session for a student organization by the Honors Program’s very own Emily Pechar, and when I say dragged, I mean dragged. I had no desire to walk across campus (I’m lazy) to hear about another student organization intent on my membership (I had walked enough on Skiles even after that first month to recognize that pattern). But in that information session, I found exactly what I wanted in an organization, and it was called AIESEC. AIESEC is the largest entirely student-run organization focusing on leadership development and cultural understanding through international exchange. It offers around 4500 international internships in over 100 countries per year for students and recent graduates of over 800 universities.
Long story short, I joined. And through AIESEC, I have had so many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. Which brings me to Morocco.
I was granted the opportunity to attend the Middle East North Africa Leadership Development Seminar (lovingly acronym-ized to MENALDS) taking place in Bouznika (a incredibly tiny town on the Atlantic coast of Morocco) with about 240 delegates, including the aforementioned lovely Emily Pechar. I met people from nineteen different countries, ranging everywhere from Brazil, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, to the Netherlands, Bahrain, and Tunisia.
It was an incredible five days, and incredible hardly does them justice. I had the opportunity to not only learn from these intense cultures and amazing people, but also had the opportunity to be a positive ambassador for America to nations that don’t necessarily see the best in the United States. I actually had the chance to completely shape the perceptions of Americans to a few people, as some of the delegates had never actually seen an American that was not on television. Believe me, that is an eye-opening and rare experience. I discussed everything from marriage traditions in Bahrain to Islam and women to freedom of speech in the Gulf, and learned something incredible each time. Imagine chatting over dinner about family life to someone whose father had a second wife, or discovering facets of a religion that tends to be demonized in American media that are so moving and thought provoking it changes your perspective on the entire region. I learned the concept of Insha’Allah, or “If God Wills It”, and the impact that has on one’s mindset. I was at one point in the conference pushed into the center of a circle of dancers to test my Middle Eastern dancing skills, and to my surprise was told by an Egyptian that I could fit in her country. I found myself watching the sunset over the minarets of Rabat’s mosques and the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, listening to the beauty of an Islamic call to salah (prayer). Like I said, incredible hardly does it justice.
If you ever, and I mean ever, have the opportunity to go to Morocco, TAKE IT. The people there are the most hospitable, gracious, and interesting people I have met in a long time. Or if you have the chance to go abroad, don’t let it pass you by. You will have the ability to experience a culture, change your perspective, meet incredible people, and see something that could take your breath away. And it could quite possibly, most probably, change your life.
i miss Morocco. take me back.