Name: Thomas Mengesha
Type of Project: Study Abroad
1.My STEP Signature Project was a Study Abroad to France and Morocco. The trip was focused on France’s colonial past with Morocco and the influence of the three Abrahamic religions in both countries culture.
2. Through my experiences abroad my views on the world were broadened. This was my first time in Europe and Northern Africa. Furthermore, it was my first time traveling to a country where Christianity was not the dominant religion. During the trip I learned a lot about the religion of Islam. I have realized that a lot of my negative predispositions towards the religion were mostly portrayed by the media. After learning about what Islam really is and how it different it is from my preconceived notion it has made me take everything with a grain of salt. It has made me question all of the information I have heard from outside third parties.
As mentioned earlier traveling to Morocco was my first time traveling to a country that had a dominant religion that wasn’t Christianity. This was a great experience. It was amazing seeing all the mosques and hearing the call to prayers being broadcasted across the city. We also traveled to Morocco during Ramadan, it was interesting to see how the cities were empty during the day, but came alive during the night time.
3. The event during my trip that enlightened me on Islam was when we traveled to a Mosque and had a Q&A with the Imam and other members of the Muslim community. This was my first time being in a Mosque and my first time being able to ask members of the Muslim community about their religion without feeling as if I was intruding. The dialogue we had should be something that everyone gets to participate in their life. It showed me the importance of seeking out information not just from a news website, but from the actual community that the information pertains too.
While in France I was able to stay with a host family. In France it is acceptable to talk about religion and politics at the dinner table. The conversations were never hostile, but were always informative. It was interesting to hear their point of views and how they related to what was going on in America.
Another key aspect of my experience was visiting a village on the outskirts of Marrakesh. There we encountered people who were living in extreme poverty, but were extremely happy. This made me reflect on my life and how I put values on materialistic things that really do not bring happiness. The trip showed me the importance of family and love because those are the only things that really mater.
4. I have future plans of becoming a doctor. As a doctor it will be important to take into consideration the cultural and societal backgrounds of my patients. This trip has showed me the importance and the influence that culture has on a person. Furthermore, it has shown me how culture can influence the decisions people make.
I believe that the media can portray images of certain groups of people in a negative light. From this experience I have learned to not trust everything that you encounter on the news channel as fact. Rather to take everything with a grain of salt. The trip has showed me that I should always pursue information from a direct source to fully understand if it is true or not.