We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
By Bridget Quinn
It is almost hard for me to believe that this is happening. I have been begging my parents for as long as I can remember to allow me travel outside the country, and for a while I had been concerned that something would come up that would force me to push back this adventure by a semester again. As the time to leave for four months in Morocco approaches I have a lot of excitement, expectations, and fears. I am very excited to meet everyone and experience student life at Al Akhawayn University, to teach, and to explore all of Morocco. I worry about being away from my family for so long, and because this is my first experience abroad, biting off more than I can chew by jumping into a place where no one in my family has ever been.
Though I have some trepidations, everyone I talk to is so excited for me and they have so many questions. They ask, “Where is Morocco? What will you eat? What language do they speak there? Will you have to cover your hair? Are you scared? What are the people like there? Oh will it be like the movie Casablanca?”
Some of these questions I can answer, mostly the ones about geography and climate, however many I cannot. I don’t have those answers, no one ever sits you down in primary school and tells you what the culture is like in Morocco and certainly there aren’t many popular media references to it. This isn’t because people aren’t interested, most people haven’t been given an opportunity to explore the world outside of the United States.
I now realize the importance of organizations like America’s Unofficial Ambassadors (AUA), and that a big part of the service that I can offer Morocco is to learn as much as I possibly can and speak and educate as many people as I can upon my return. I imagine that I won’t have any problem with this as all my friends and family are already so curious.
As I get these experiences on my side, I wonder what it will be like for everyone else I encounter in Morocco and the array of questions they will have and get from their friends and family. I wonder what questions my roommate will have for me and what her friends and family will have for her about living with an exchange student. I wonder what my students will expect from me as an educator, a student, and a friend. As I encounter more and more of my friends and family who have questions about Morocco, I become more excited for the questions they will have for me and what expectations they have for me.
his first experience that I have had with my study abroad, even though I haven’t left the country yet has already informed me of so much. I am beginning to realize what role I can play as a citizen diplomat and as a private citizen studying abroad. I am excited to share and learn everything about my time in Morocco and in the United States to everyone I meet in Morocco and coming home.