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Finding Community Abroad

Coming to a new and unfamiliar country, I didn’t know what to expect. In the past, everywhere that I have traveled, I have either known someone there, or have traveled with someone. But this time, I was coming to a country where I knew no one. It is strange to have to create your own community in less than four months, with people that you barely know.

But, travelling in a new and unfamiliar place can also lead to unfamiliar friendships and communities. In Morocco, I’ve been lucky to have an incredible host family that I can go back to at the end of the day and feel at home with. Even with a language barrier, my host mom and I talk about a range of things, including Moroccan culture, politics, religion, or food. She makes me freshly squeezed orange juice every morning, and always does her best to make sure that I feel comfortable at home.

Likewise, travelling around Morocco has been an incredible experience – not just to see the beauty and diversity of the country, but to bond with others in my study abroad group as well. From the intense heat of the Moroccan sun in the hot cities of Fez and Meknes, to summiting the highest mountain in North Africa, it has been amazing to share unique experiences with the others in my program. Although I’ve been missing my friends and communities back at GW, it has been good to have another group of friends in Morocco, with whom I can share my hopes, fears, and worries.

Pictured: Some of my friends as we were trekking up Mount Toubkal - the highest mountain in North Africa. This was hour eight of climbing!

As the weeks have passed, I have become more and more accustomed to Morocco, and have felt more comfortable with the streets of Rabat. Early every morning I walk about 30 minutes to school through the hustle and bustle of the medina, the smoke of the busy Rabat streets – all while navigating my way through donkey carts and fruit sellers. Through the weeks I have gained a feeling of belonging and awareness in the city that I experienced after my first few months of college as well. I now have my favorite shwarma and falafel spot in the medina (where, embarrassingly, the man now recognizes me), a favorite study café, and my daily running route along the boardwalk of the beach that overlooks the clear blue Atlantic Ocean.

Pictured: A view of my daily run. Its nice to clear my mind at the end of a long day by going for a run along the crystal clear water. 

There was no single moment when I felt that I had finally ‘found’ my community here in Morocco, but rather it was a set of individual moments that made me recognize that I had created my own safe space and community. Whether that has been remembering the way home from the train station, finding a favorite coffee shop, or becoming friends with the ice cream store owner on my street. Overall, I feel very happy with the way that I have oriented myself in my new home – and am grateful for my friends and host family that have supported me and helped make me feel part of their community as well.