Dispelling Myths about Morocco
Time passes quickly while you are constantly experiencing new things, and I now find myself back home in America after my semester abroad in Morocco. However the experience and the learning does not stop when you leave the country and return home. Part of the abroad experience is about returning home and seeing your culture and environment in an entirely different light. Whether you are more appreciative of the things about your life at home or you start to notice things that you now dislike, your experiences abroad provide a different lens through which you see your subsequent experiences.
Part of this occurs when you talk to people about your time abroad, which can be an interesting experience to say the least. Recently I spoke with an old family friend about my time in Morocco, and the first thing she asked me was, “So, were you in a village?” This is one of the many questions that you get asked when you don’t study abroad in Europe. Other questions include, “Was it safe?”, “Was it stable?”, “Was it dirty/poor/different?”
These questions really bring to my attention exactly how ingrained, and most often inaccurate, the average American’s perceptions are of countries besides those in Europe. What most people genuinely don’t understand is that not all of Africa consists of villages, animals and dirt. There are cities, universities, grocery stores, pharmacies, museums, banks, gyms and malls. And contrary to the prevalent perception, Morocco is actually much more developed, educated, and clean than people who have not been there realize. In fact, there are several cities in Morocco, which remind me a lot of those in Southern California.
These perceptions are part of the reason why the return process is a critical part of the study abroad experience. After spending a few months in a foreign country, you are, relatively speaking, an expert on that country among the people in your life. This means that what you say will go a long way towards informing their perceptions of other countries. It is only by talking about your experiences abroad that we can dispel misconceptions and foster more understanding and cooperation.
Photo credit: Nicole Cutuli