Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Hello everyone so I have many thoughts about my experience abroad and I am realizing new things about myself I never thought I would discover. This blog is more personal as it is not just about the touristy places we are visiting or only the positives about travelling. I am going to be authentic in the experience as a whole and what I have learned, discovered, and gained from going to a completely new place.
Let’s Talk Language Barrier
Now, I knew coming into this for a fact I was extremely unprepared with my language skills. I felt confident that I could overcome this and I have (a month later) maybe a better word is “adapted” to it. The beginning was filled with frustration with myself, at others, and just the fact that it seemed like everyone around me was better in my program at communicating. In Morocco, they speak Arabic, Darija a dialect of Arabic, and French. This was one of things that drew me in with the program, the diversity in this culture. However, I found myself once I arrived that the diversity of this exactly was one of the things that was irritating me the most. The language was a hard adjustment. I found myself frustrated with the process. It is a weird experience walking around not knowing what is going on, going to stores jumbling to find clarity in any interaction, and reading signs on the street. Just everything. I wanted to be independent and just simply order my own food easily or introduce myself correctly, ask questions at my Service Learning Organization and the list goes on.
Now I can say that Moroccans are so inspiring with their language skills. They are so kind and welcoming, even when a foreigner is attempting a new language. Once I learned basic phrases, responses, and greetings in public I tried them out. This is where I saw the change. By practicing, even if it is wrong and probably pronounced wrong. Now, Moroccans are exposed to many languages through school, culture, and movies. This was news to me as learning about interests of other Moroccans and I had found out they watch American films and listen even to very similar artists as I.
I found myself frustrated again that I was struggling so much to communicate to the people here. Then one day my mindset changed and I became interested in language learning, linguistics, and attitudes about language learning. I looked up many videos on how people learn languages, read many articles about language learning, and asked people who are fluent in other languages their tactics. This motivated me more to learn and really accept this process of learning. There were clear signs that I was supposed to just accept this process and practice instead of staying stagnant and upset about not retaining or understanding the language around me. I am no where near knowing the language, but I am now willing to actually be okay with not knowing it, attempting to learn it, and motivate myself to learn a new language in my lifetime. It is all about how you view the process.
What blogs do not normally talk about is the indecisiveness, newness, frustrations, and problems with travelling or being immersed in a new place.
I can say that going to Morocco has done more than make me try new things, it has completely taken me out of my comfort zone and just flipped it all around. A good example of this would be the Hammam (Communal Bathing), the perspectives of Moroccans, and their values in society.
With this comes a lot of different emotions. In the Hammam I felt so embarrassed and terrified at the thought of this. Also, the contradiction in my mind of a conservative Muslim country and then bathing together. What a contradiction, was my perception. I was so unsure about this and debating not going even. I pushed myself to go as this is an important part of their culture. This was way out of my comfort zone and I must say I learned a lot about just the outcomes of trying new things. If you don’t like it then, don’t do it again. I wanted to immerse myself in the practices so I decided I would go to the Hammam. I did it! That was a amazing experience and I overcome a fear of mine. This was really huge and one of my notable fears of this trip.
In my classes and with people I meet here I learn about new perspectives. I get to see how people communicate, interact, and treat one another. I choose to take this information as a way to gain perspective and journal the new things I learn from people. The values of Morocco I have learned are to go with the flow more, take your time to slow down a bit, trust the process and life will take you where it will take you. Don’t be so persistent on time and scheduling. I noticed while being here how stressed I was about the time I have left to get everything done I want to do in my life. How worried I was about my future, and just stressing on my timeline for whats next, what will be my future carrier where will I live, and so on. I am learning everyday and am allowing new perspectives in to understand the world more and to learn about myself.
Change is Inevitable, Growth is Optional
“Change is inevitable, growth is optional” is a good quote and fits this blog perfectly.
My experiences with a new language, cultural immersion, new perspectives, fears of trying new things, and adapting are all apart of the process when being in a new environment.
I heard from people that being immersed and hearing a new language for the first time is frustrating, but I didn’t really believe that fully or at least didn’t take those comments seriously. A new culture/country is really hard if you are not open to changing your views some and if you aren’t willing to learn or challenge your previous preconceptions. This was a big part of the process of study abroad and many people go through this when travelling, yet it progress differently in everyone. Some people might be completely fine with a language change as it does not frustrate them, but maybe they would be frustrated with new social norms such as the way Moroccans drive (by the way it is chaos and crossing the street is a new skill I am so proud of), nonetheless the frustrations and fears people face will all be different. What is important is how one views the situation in this uncomfortable position and what they learn about it.
This change is apart of the process and it is just life. You can choose to adapt, learn more about the situation, and view it in a more positive mindset. This is what enhances growth and helps gain new insights about life, others, and yourself. I have learned to laugh at myself and just enjoy the process of struggling or the unknown.
Morocco I thank you for bringing me here for this experience, the new perspectives I have gained, and for the stories I have know to tell. I can look back at this and see how much I learned and the joy that being in a new place can truly bring.