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!
...continue reading "Finding Community Abroad"
“It is one of the ironies of globalization that whilst goods, capital, knowledge, entrepreneurship and the media are free to flow across borders, labor, that other crucial factor of production, is not.” (Russell King)
My topic of study here in Morocco is Migration and Transnational identity—a topic I knew very little about before arriving in Rabat. In the insular world of our American politics, immigration is a buzzword often hurled across the partisan divide. It’s a word used to designate an identity and delineate the degree of “belonging”. But beyond the politicization, it’s a global crisis that we too often over-simplify in the US for our own convenience. So for the next few moments I ask you to detach yourself from these politics and take a hard look at the current reality of our planet's largest mass migration since World War II.
My identity has been something that I have questioned with my whole life. My father is Sri Lankan, and my mother is American. They come from two very different worlds – one the son of a tailor who lived in a small village, and the other the daughter of an auditor at the Federal Reserve in New York. They met in Tanzania, while working in refugee camps after the Rwandan genocide, and soon afterwards got married in Sri Lanka. My relatives live in all corners of the world and are all exceedingly different.
Being multiracial and having international roots, I was lucky to have the opportunity to grow up in different countries, and to have my feet planted in the roots of both my parents’ cultures. Going to international schools, then moving to the US were experiences that have made me aware of my identity, and has forced me to think about how others view me as a woman, Muslim, American, foreigner, or anything else.
By diverse background has been a source of constant learning and has shaped my mindset to be more accepting and globally minded. But being biracial and having international roots can often mean being invisible as well. My body is a battleground of two nations and cultures, constantly vying to be defining parts of my story. I am simultaneously my mother’s child and my father’s biological heir, and balancing the two can sometimes feel impossible.
...continue reading "Your Identity is What You Make It"
As-salamu alaykum (وَعَلَيْكُم السَّلَام, peace be upon you) from Morocco! Life is great. This blog has been a slow process, as my days have been full of cultural orientation, intensive classes, family time and exploring my new city with some bright people.
My name is Calla, although (everyone here pronounces it K-eye-lah). Macharfeen (nice to meet you!). I am a senior, studying International Affairs and Religion at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Hailing from a small farm town in Ohio, I often explain my major as the study of diplomacy, focusing on conflict resolution. In my field of study, it is very important to acquire experience abroad.
...continue reading "Yalla! ياللا"
It is hard to believe that I only have one week left of my program here in Morocco. It seems like just yesterday that I was walking through the crazy medina for the first time, overwhelmed and nervous for the next four months. Despite all of the challenges about studying abroad here, I look back on all that I have done with such fond memories and truly appreciate all that I have learned here.
That being said, I am definitely looking forward to returning home to Philadelphia soon. I guess it’s true what they say- distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Before I left for this amazing adventure, I was so excited to leave GW and my home for a while; I desperately needed a change. After being away for so long, I have now realized all of the things I have taken for granted at home over the years.
...continue reading "Goodbye Morocco, Hello USA"
This weekend, I spent four days camping with Berber nomads in the High Atlas Mountains. These people do not speak any Arabic, but instead use a spoken language called Tamazight. They live in tiny huts with their tribes made of wood and tarp, and they move three times throughout the year depending on the weather. They do not use the Moroccan currency at all; instead, they trade sheep and other animals and homemade products for the goods they need. Before leaving for the trip, I was a little nervous about being able to communicate with my nomad hosts and was unsure of what to expect in terms of their lifestyle. However, the trip ended up being truly the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. I think a huge part of what made the trip so amazing boiled down to one thing: Moroccan hospitality.
...continue reading "Moroccan Hospitality"
Studying abroad anywhere is certainly a challenging experience; adapting to a new culture, environment, and language is never easy. For me, the most difficult adjustment has been living with my host family, which, despite its many challenges, has also been my favorite experiencing. Coming into my semester abroad, I found myself completely unable to communicate. I had been relying on my few semesters of French in high school to help me get by in Morocco. However, where I live in the old Medina, few people speak French. My host family made up of my mom, dad, and thirty-year old host brother, speak only Darija, which is the Moroccan dialect of Arabic.
Unfortunately, not only did I not speak any Darija upon my arrival in Morocco, I did not know any Modern Standard Arabic, either. Since arriving here, I’ve been taking an intensive Modern Standard Arabic course where I spend two hours a day in class, Monday through Friday. While this has helped my communication skills immensely in my daily life here, communicating at home is still challenging. My host family does not know very much Modern Standard Arabic, and I only know as much Darija as I can pick up in the streets, so a lot gets lost in translation. However, I have come so far with my language abilities since first getting to Rabat, and each day, communicating gets easier and easier.
...continue reading "Living with a Host Family Abroad"
My Moroccan life is anything but boring; being immersed in such a new culture means that every day brings a new adventure. Even on the "boring" school days, I always have exciting, weird, or new experiences simply because everything is so unlike home. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Rabat, Morocco:
1) I couldn't begin this post with anything other than the medina. The medina is the oldest part of the city that is encircled by huge walls. In fact, it was all there was of Rabat before the French came in 1912. The medina is lined with hundreds of vendors selling all sorts of food and fun little things. There are lots of Moroccan craft shops that contain a variety of items, like the well-known Moroccan carpets and embroidered fabrics, copper items, lamps, jewelry, antiques, wooden items, and lots of other unique gifts. The medina is always jam-packed with people bustling about buying their daily groceries, heading to the mosque, or meeting friends. As much fun as it is to aimlessly meander through the medina and get lost (which is easy to do, trust me), it is a difficult place to maneuver multiple times a day. I live right in the center of the medina, which is an amazing experience, but it also means it is always noisy and I'm constantly forced to navigate the crowds to get anywhere. Still, is it an amazing place to shop and wander, and the amazing smells of food stands make it simply irresistible.
...continue reading "My Favorite Things to do in Rabat"
Like many people, I have found myself more focused on the “abroad” part of “study abroad” and less concerned with the study aspect. Of course, this seems only natural; who wants to spend all day, every day stuck inside doing work when they could be exploring a new place and culture?!
Lucky for me, I’ve found my study abroad program to be extremely understanding of students’ wishes to explore our host country, often times going easy on homework and weekend assignments. I have without a doubt found my abroad curriculum to be much easier than my coursework at GW, and I am perfectly content with that. I am still learning SO much, both in the classroom and out of it, while still having enough time to explore Morocco and beyond.
...continue reading ""Study" Abroad"
Like many other people I'm sure, having the opportunity to eat new foods (and a lot of them) was one of the things I was most excited about when I began my study abroad experience. Moroccan food has certainly not let me down, as food and meal times are a huge part of the culture here. With so many exciting, new, and sometimes weird flavors, it's hard to choose just one favorite food... So here's my top five!
1. Couscous: I couldn't make it through this list without listing this Moroccan staple! Every Friday for lunch, Moroccans enjoy steamed couscous piled high with stewed meat and tons vegetables. The Moroccan spices and perfectly-cooked veggies that melt in your mouts are completely irresistible, and they're the reason I rush home after my Arabic classes on Fridays. Couscous is the traditional Moroccan meal that is only eaten on Fridays, the holiest day in Islam. And the best part is that it's eaten with your hands!!
...continue reading "New Food: The Best Part About Studying Abroad"