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The McDermott Scholars Award covers all expenses of a superb four-year academic education at The University of Texas at Dallas, in concert with a diverse array of intensive extracurricular experiences, including internships, travel, and cultural enrichment.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Adventures and Self-Discovery in Morocco

So I know it looks like I do nothing but blog on the EMPSN, but we are all required to write blogs when we study abroad there should be a dozen or so of doing the same thing. I highly encourage you all to post your blogs on EMSPN so we can have share stories on this 'social' network :)

So about my summer, I was fortunate enough to receive the Critical Language Scholarship this summer, and I was sent to Tangier, Morocco. At first I was SUPER upset about being sent to Morocco because I don't know the local dialect at all and I am not really interested in North Africa. But alas, the scholarshp was a GREAT opportunity to learn Arabic, and my goal/I WILL be fluent in arabic by the time I graduate UTD... so I took it. And I am SO glad I did.

The program itself was intensive, as promised. We spent the first 10 days traveling through about 5 major cities in North Morocco (the South is mainly desert), and then we finally settled in Tangier. Classes were 4 hours a day, followed by about 4-5 hours of homework 5 days a week. CRAZY I know. We barely had time to leave the campus to go experience the culture... we basically just went out to grab dinner. Eventually, we got more efficient and started spending more and more time out which was fun.

We traveled almost every weekend and had some 'fun' ADVENTURES: sitting 7 people in a taxi (me being the lucky passenger in the front between the driver and another passenger that was 6 feet tall... and yes the stick shift was on my tush the whole time!), getting offered illegal drugs like 10 times in one night... including at dinner by my waiter, riding on a camel to watch the sunrise at 4 a.m. over the Sahara (real Africa one might say :) ), going to local homes for interesting local cuisine and AMAZING hospitality, cold bucket showers, etc. One of my favorite adventures was throwing my bags into a moving train and then jumping into random local Moroccan men arms after the train started to pick up speed because I got off at the wrong stop. Or getting into a fake taxi and almost being kidnapped with friends. Needless to say, we had our adventures in Morocco.

This is where the blog gets corny... so forewarning.

The best part of the trip though was what I learned about myself. This trip, more than my previous two trips, really changed me as a person. It was so powerful to be around such AMAZING people that had similar interests and passions as me, and I re-discovered my love for arabic and the middle east by staying in the region and by constantly being around them. I now KNOW I want to end up working in the region or at least towards improvement and greater universal understand of the traditions of the peoples of the region. I gained a new-found appreciate of the traditional culture and a hightened appreciation of the differences between the lifestyles in East and the West. I gained self-confidence in my language skills and started realizing the power of communication with peoples of such different background. The opportunity to speak with fellow americans that just love what the language and culture as much as I do was a very beautiful thing. We started throwing in random arabic words in our everyday english conversations (similar to when we say "hola" all the time), and we all internalized the 'arab way' when it came to greetings (cheek kisses), sharing, giving, and just loving each other. I met americans from states like Montana, Ohio, Indiana, etc of which I know NOTHING about, until now. Also, of the 45 or so of us, only like 4 hadn't traveled before, so everyone had something to give intelectually to the group. I made some great friendships that I know will last forever, and I rediscovered the type of person I am and want to be when it comes to relationships with elders, family, friends, etc. I am an Arab-American, and I have developed a greater pride and understanding of what that means and how that forms me as a person. How that makes me 'unique'. Both sides of that hyphen is special and I have started to internalize that. I only hope that each of you have the opportunity to go out and meet some people in the middle of nowhere (like North Africa for instance) that will make you look inside yourself to further understand the person you are and the person you want to be in the future. I know it sounds corny but it can happen, and it did happen to me in Morocco.

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