During my study abroad trip to France and Morocco, I explored the different cultures and communities of both countries and the influence France has all over North Africa as a result of French colonization. I visited mosques, museums, cathedrals, villages to grasp the historical presence of the different cultures that has engulfed France over the years. We studied Islam and how it is perceived and viewed in France and how laws are enforced on the dressing of the religion and the Muslim community feels about it.
After visiting both France and Morocco, I can say I feel more understanding to other cultures when they move to a country that may not accept them at first and having to find their voice. I know it happens here in America but as an outsider in France I was able to see it clearly and it was hard to watch. I put myself in situations where I usually wouldn’t anywhere else and I’m glad I did because I learned many things about who I am but also about the people of the cities we visited and the country. I have to say to say that I now see the world in a bigger way because after traveling from city to city in both countries I couldn’t help but notice how much more there is to the these countries and to the world itself. I know it’s strange to think about but it’s a different reality that hits you when you notice it. I didn’t go into this trip with many assumptions besides the fact that French people would find us annoying as Americans because we can be loud and maybe “obnoxious” but that’s all I came in with. I wanted to be as open as possible for France and especially Morocco because I haven’t heard a lot of things about it until recently.
One interaction that led to a change was my experience with my host family in France. I got to spend 4 days with them and figure out a way to communicate with them with. We learned about their families and how they’ve been hosting families for years from all over the world. We had dinner with them every night and told them about our day and it felt like a real family experience. They treated us like they’ve known us all our lives and I never felt that from anyone other than my actual family and it was an amazing feeling.
This change was significant because it taught me that no matter what people are capable of accepting anyone no matter where they come from, there is no excuse. I learned that sometimes it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone especially when you’re in an environment, living with complete strangers who you may have trouble communicating with because of language barrier. I also felt that I transformed into a person who understands herself better on her own. I feel more independent and in control of my life and with the way I live in the world. I changed in a way that benefits my culture, in the sense that I am more appreciative of my background and culture and more in touch with my faith and other faiths as well. Seeing how everyone in Morocco respected their culture and abided by their religious holiday, showed me that I should be more involved in my Ethiopian heritage and religion as well.
I believe this experience has given more thought into what I want to do in the future. I’ve been back and forth with nursing and counseling psychology, but generally I just want to be in a field where I am helping people. During this trip, I saw everyone being generous and helpful to loved ones, even strangers like myself. I want to use my interpersonal experiences with my host family, people from the markets, and tour guides for my career. I learned many cultural norms that I could attribute to either my nursing or psychology path. I also want to go back to Morocco to do research if I decide to go onto my counseling psychology path to analyze mental health.