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By nadyahhilmi1

Throughout my four months in Morocco, I have had the opportunity to travel to cities all across the country, every weekend brought another adventure. But my most memorable experience was climbing Mount Toubkhal. Located within Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, it is the highest peak in North Africa, totaling almost 14,000 feet tall. The trekking tourism website described the hike as a ‘mild walk’ – this became a running joke as me and ten of my friends’ ascended the mountain, it was anything but a ‘mild walk.’

After taking a five hour train ride from Rabat to Marrakech, and spending a night in a hostel, we were picked up by a bus early on Friday morning to drop us off near the trekking company’s shop. Here we put all of our bags on mules, laced up our hiking boots, and rented gloves, walking sticks, and other equipment. At around 9 am we started our ascent, going along the non-existent path, avoiding boulders, mud, goats, and donkey carts along the way. After nearly eight straight hours of hiking through fields, valleys, mountains, and streams, we made it to the base of the mountain. This is where we found our basecamp, where we slept for the night. It was freezing, and the altitude made many of us sick, dehydrated, and weak.

We had to be up at 4am to start hiking to the summit at 5am. After putting on even more layers, and stuffing bread and hardboiled eggs in our mouths, we started again. It took five hours to reach the summit, and since it was 5am, it was pitch black outside. Since none of us had headlights, we used the flashlights on our cellphones to scale boulders. It was even more difficult the second day, we were already sore and the altitude wasn’t getting any friendlier on our lungs. After hours of scaling rocks, avoiding boulders, and trying not to freeze to death, we finally made it to the top of the mountain.

...continue reading "Morocco: My Most Memorable Moment"

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"

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"