It wasn’t until I woke up the morning of my flight that I really understood that I was leaving the United States and traveling to Morocco. My mind was flooded with questions and concerns that wouldn’t be answered until the following weeks. What will my host family be like? Will they be bothered by my lack of Arabic? How do they view Americans? How do they view Italians? How will I be perceived? What if I can’t find a good story for my journalism classes? These thoughts and concerns were put on hold when I saw another student from my program waiting for the flight to Paris. When we started talking, I learned that we had similar academic backgrounds, and similar preoccupations, which eased my worries.
When the plane landed in Morocco, I realized I had made the right decision by choosing this country as my study abroad location. The sun was bright, the air was warm, and my expectations were high. My fellow students were discussing what their favorite news outlets are and debating various current events. This excited me to be studying abroad with students who have a similar passion for journalism. This is where I will learn to become a real journalist. Walking around, reporting the concerns of the people. What kind of training did the military men in the airport receive? How much money does our bus driver make? What is my host family’s view of the King?
The first time I felt a little overwhelmed was when our host organization, SIT, was showing us around the neighborhood that we would be living in. The quantity of people on the tiny streets of the already difficult to navigate Medina made me wonder how long it would take to know my way around. However, the more time I spent on the streets, the more I made connections between the tiny streets of the Medina, and the tiny streets of Naples, Italy, the city where my father is from. The smells, the merchants yelling their advertisements, the beggars by the places of worship. Although it is different, there are very comforting similarities that softened the effect of culture shock.
During my study abroad experience in Morocco, I would like to be able to learn as much as I can from the people we are working with, be they the journalists who have worked through the Arab Spring, or the students who participated in it. On a smaller scale, I would like to be able to eventually cross a busy street with as little hesitation as the local Moroccans. Baby steps.