Jeanette in Morocco: Moroc(kin’) First Week

September 10, 2017

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Wow, it’s hard to believe I’ve already been in Morocco for nearly a week! Stepping off the plane felt surreal. There is something unexplainably special about experiencing a place for the first time.

The days feel long, but the moments feel fleeing.

As much as I would like to talk about all the things happening so quickly, I am slowly learning through the relaxed Moroccan lifestyle that it is unnecessary to make sense of everything immediately. Instead, we should understand that reflection takes time. It is this acknowledgement which liberates us, allowing us to not only be in a moment, but to truly soak it in.

In one week, Morocco has already challenged my abilities to relax, unwind, and be present. As an American, go-go-going is an embedded notion difficult to strip. However, as my host dad says, “Relax! It is not a problem!”

Day by day, I am learning to replace a stressful need to achieve with a calm desire to enjoy.

Enjoy this collection of small, but meaningful moments I have been lucky enough to experience, and more importantly, enjoy.

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My program SIT Morocco: Field Studies in Journalism and New Media is made up of 15 students from across the U.S. pursuing degrees in a mixture of journalism, film, photography, international relations, foreign correspondence, and more. Aka – a group of artistic junkies obsessed with words, images, and storytelling lucky enough to be mentored by award-winning creatives.

To say I am incredibly inspired by my new friends and professors is an understatement. From a Late Night Show intern to a New York Times published writer, I am surrounded by some serious talent and I can’t wait to learn from them and offer what I can!

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As a University of Richmond student pursuing a double major in Leadership Studies and Journalism, with a minor in Film Studies, it can sometimes feel like I am a fish swimming upstream. Whereas I find passion in literature and cinema, much of the university spends their time mixing chemicals or studying Econ.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that almost every single person in my study abroad program journals like I do!

A few nights ago, my friend and I went to the beach to watch the sunset and journal. Foolishly, we left too late and missed the sunset. We ended up laughing about the fact that we were sitting in the dark more than we actually journaled, but this has been one of my favorite nights thus far. And I look forward to many more.

I just moved into my homestay last night, and I already feel a part of the family! For homestay gifts, I brought a lighthouse candle holder (resembling the Virginia Beach lighthouse seal), autumn-scented candles, and one of my mom’s canvases.

Within seconds of unwrapping the gifts, my homestay mom immediately made them a part of the home decor!

She couldn’t read the Chinese calligraphy my mom wrote on the canvas, and I couldn’t explain them to her in Arabic, but somehow, with the little English we share, I was able to communicate the characters. “Peace is a blessing.” She smiled from ear to ear.

It was amazing to watch the way art bridged three cultures in this simple moment.

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Meet my little brother Youssef! He is the most adorable seven year old I have ever met and for the first time in my life, I’m not the youngest one!

My lack of Arabic and his lack of English don’t make for rich conversations, but we spent the whole afternoon playing catch, coloring, drawing, and communicating in an ongoing game of charades and validating thumbs-ups.

Despite language barriers and cultural differences, Youssef makes me smile as though I were seven again too.

 

 

 

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Jeanette in Morocco: Pre-Departure Feels

September 1, 2017

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Eight months ago, I sat in the University of Richmond dining hall, unsure of where to study abroad. Part of me wanted to return to my mother’s loving homeland, Taiwan, while another part of me sought a new adventure to deconstruct the confines of my comfort zone. Unable to decide, I left it up to fate.

With the flip of a coin, I will be on a plane, flying to Morocco tomorrow! As a Leadership Studies, Journalism, and Film Studies student, I will be embarking on the SIT: Field Studies in Journalism and New Media Program.

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I cannot wait to combine my passions for social justice and visual storytelling as I explore the ins and outs of imperial cities and rural villages, seeking and sharing diverse, rich, and perhaps, silenced stories.

Book.jpgTomorrow, I will be watching the sunrise in Africa. This is both a beautiful and nerve-wrecking thought.

I feel as though people typically have a reason for choosing a particular country to study abroad in. However, I feel as though I will not know my reason until I return. And strangely, I am content with that.

For the next four months, I want to experience as a sponge – soaking in all the knowledge, experience, and culture Morocco has to offer. Here’s to a semester of growth, change, and new beginnings. As salam aleykum! أس سالم عليكم!



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