By Michelle Bouchard
By Michelle Bouchard
Washington D.C. – A few appearances in popular movies, the pictures of friends on camels who studied in Spain and took a weekend trip across the Strait, and the testimonies from the few nationals I’ve had encounters with. That is the extent of my exposure to Morocco, its people, and its culture, which can hardly be considered exposure at all. I am a college student at an American university, looking forward to studying abroad in Morocco in just a few short weeks.
I continually get asked questions like “are you going to dye your hair?” or “is it all desert there?” I don’t know much about Morocco but I know enough to be cautious of believing the extremes that come to people’s minds. Questions such as these further demonstrate the lack of knowledge that Americans hold on countries to which they have not had much exposure. I was asked to write about what I expect. But the truth is, I have no idea what to expect.
I like to think that I am aware enough to know that what I have seen in movies or from tourist experiences are not accurate representations of what I should expect. If that were the case, then I would expect to see an abundance of camels and rugs and lively Arabic dancing. While these few facets may be threads in the elaborate tapestry that is Moroccan culture, they in no way define it.
I know that there is so much more to Morocco and its people and I cannot wait to discover it. I am trying to commence my travels with an open mind, although it is difficult to rid oneself of expectations altogether. Accordingly, I am focusing on one main expectation: to be surprised.
When I see road signs and billboards I’m sure I will be surprised by the writing. I speak a little Arabic (the purpose of my trip being to advance my language skills) but I still expect that it will be a bit of a challenge finding my way around. I have been to a few other countries where English is not the official language, but in all of these countries it was still very easy to get around knowing only English.
I am looking forward to challenging myself linguistically, but I’m sure that it will be like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I am also looking forward to immersing myself in an entirely different culture. The idea of culture itself is fairly subjective and hard to define, but I believe that “culture” takes into account everything that characterizes a certain country’s identity. There are so many different aspects that go into defining a country’s culture, and I look forward to uncovering Morocco’s identity for myself.
I am weary to be ruled by expectations because I know that anyone else’s experiences will never be consistent with my own, regardless of how similar the journey may be. No matter how many Moroccan Americans I speak to about what it’s like to live there, or what my fellow college students say about their weekend trips to Morocco, my experience will be completely unique. How I experience Morocco is up to me, and I plan to experience it as authentically and fully as possible.
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