S.T.E.P. and Ohio State provided me the opportunity to attend a Global May Study Abroad Program to Rabat, Morocco. Our trip to Rabat, Morocco began as an adventure and it did not stop upon our arrival. Fifteen other students, our professor, and myself took part in a journey to reach Morocco. Our flight to Casblanaca, was turned around after a belligerent passenger began to verbally harass a flight attendant. We spent a night in the Germany airport, on our arrival to Casablanaca, Morrocco we had a two-hour car ride to Rabat. Our first weekend in Morocco our whole group got food poisoning. When going to the U.S. Embassay our driver made an illegal U-turn which caused a huge argument and scuffle with the Moroccan police. These and many more event made my trip memorable, and kept it interesting.
We were greeted with the aroma of street vendor foods, the Islamic call of prayer, and our host families waiting to take us home. For four weeks, we lived with a Moroccan family, attending class 5 days a week. My learning took place in and out of the classroom through guest lectures, excursions, sight, visits, and new friends.
Morocco and the U.S. have different cultural norms, which is to be expected. People always say Americans are always on the move, and when you go to other countries one usually finds a slower, relaxed pace of life. I, truly enjoyed this serenity of Morocco. However, the traffic in Morocco is way worse than anywhere in the United States. No one follows traffic rules, cars dip in and out of lanes, there is no right of way with pedestrians, so it is move at your own risk as cars speed down streets. It is typical for children to live with their families until marriage or a mother’s in-laws to live with the family. We walked down the square in the morning to go to class, to find most shops still closed and streets pretty quiet. Many people wake up later in the day, and everyone stays up really late. Dinner is commonly eaten after 8 pm, between 9 to 10 at night. The Islamic call of prayer notifies people of the time. I remember walking with a group around at night to find the cafes filled with older men, drinking mint tea or coffee watching soccer. Many teenagers would walk the pier and sit at cafes to hang out. Because Rabat has a beach, teenage boys would come in the evening from the water dripping with water walking the square. When shopping everything is paid in cash, it is very uncommon to see a credit-card. Spending only what is available reduces the stress of credit-card payments, and more bills.
I found most Moroccans to be happy, welcoming, and not stressed. Parents come from work and children come form school to eat lunch at home. Family is very important in Morocco, and from my observations valued and respected. I think in America if we start adopting some of the values of other countries, the average persons stress rate would go down. Talking to my host sister, she remained calm and optimistic about a bad predict she was in with her program. Most people, myself included, would get angry and verbally aggressive. In my everyday life, I am trying to implement this same patience to live an overall positive life. The interactions I had with strangers in Morocco was personable, while in the U.S. it s easy to feel like just another number. Lifestyle is a major factor of quality of life, so I am working to adopt smaller practices in my everyday life to create a sense of calm.
In the United States, we have 24-hour access to a variety of news programs on the television, Internet, and newspapers. We had the opportunity to have a guest lecture on Media and the Arab spring in the Arab world. We learned the breakdown and history of major news channels like CNN and Al-Jazeera. The ways information is presented on the media can be heavily misconstrued and distorted. On our weekend excursions we had the opportunity to shop in the squares for souvenirs. Everything in Morocco is bargained for, so when our group asked for a price on an item we were met with a ridiculous price. Many of us did not know Arabic, so it was apparent we were foreigners. Shopkeepers would not bargain with us sometimes, saying we come from America we are rich or such items are not expensive for ourselves. I had many experiences where cab drivers, and merchants would try to take advantage of us being foreigners. Catcalls and comments to the females in our trip were too common. Many of the men had this perception that American females were promiscuous. Walking down the streets it was important not to make eye contact with the men on the streets, because it would be inviting. Many of the perceptions people had of Americans came from media not personal interactions. I used to take what was presented on the news as the source of truth, but I have learned and am still learning that may not be the case. Many times information is presented a way in the media to raise viewing audience. For example, my friends and family were very nervous for me to go the North Africa because of the many stories seen on the news of different attacks in the Middle East and Tunisia. On my arrival I found the streets of Morocco to be safer than some streets in the United States. We had this perception of Arab countries to be war torn and destructed. This lesson affects my academic, professional, and personal life. It is important to always note how stories are being presented in the media, and why is it presented in a certain way.
Our study abroad program did not require anyone to be a specific major. I am a majoring in business, so I have taken some economic courses and an international business course. These courses along with a guest lecture and site visits on Morocco’s politics and economy helped me understand how truly globalized we are becoming as a species. Many people in Morocco spoke 3 to 4 languages, traditional dress was typically only worn on Friday instead people wore typical Western clothing. Talking to my host siblings and new friends, many of us had the same taste in music and artists. Culinary such as couscous with chicken is a staple dish; couscous has made its way to the U.S. as a healthy option. International trade has allowed for different nations to adopt aspects of each other’s culture. However, I wonder, as we become more globalized and uniform will different nations began to lose their orientalism or uniqueness. This program made me more aware how the world is changing, in terms of job opportunities becoming increasingly offshore. One day I could be working in another country, which is why it is crucial for us to be able to speak more than English even though business is typically conducted in English. When working and talking to people from other countries it is important I understand their culture as not to offend anyone.
Ohio State and S.T.E.P. allowed for me to see new sights, gain new perspectives of society from my fellow classmates and people I met along the way in Morocco. Throughout the course of four weeks my impressions of the Maghreb, North African, region, continuously evolved. Morocco is a country that is developing its economy, and evolving traditional views to become more progressive. Our generation is changing the world as we become more cross-cultural and advanced. I hope to continue to remain open minded, and apply my findings in my academic, professional, and personal life.