Beyond a Hop, a skip, and a jump

Welcome to Notes from Abroad, where students spending the semester out of the country collectively catalog their exotic experiences into one blog that avid Lanthorn readers can access from the newspaper’s website. Today I am writing to you all the way from…
Livonia, Michigan?

That’s right. I haven’t left yet. In fact, I’ve been stuck in the suburbs on the east side of the state for—let me do some math here—an entire month. And folks, if you think my time here hasn’t been exciting, educationally stimulating, and culturally revealing, well, you’d be absolutely right. No offense to Livonia; it’s still just the same old town I lived in for the first 18 years of my life. But tomorrow I leave for Meknes, Morocco.

As you can imagine, the endless small-talk that’s accompanied my time back at home has often led to a discussion of my upcoming travels. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Relative: Study abroad, huh?
Me: Yup.
Relative: Where to?
*Me: *Morocco.
Relative: Oh. I see. You know, you gotta be careful over there.
Me: Uh-huh.


*Friend: *Morocco? Why Morocco?
Me: Well, I’m trying to learn Arabic, for one.
Friend: Oh, they speak Arabic there?
Me: Yeah, a really thick dialect of it that Arabs from other parts of the Middle East and north Africa have a really hard time understanding. Very different from the Arabic I’m learning in school.
Friend: So again, why Morocco?


Expert on Morocco: What draws you to Morocco in particular?
Me (trying to sound educated): It’s the combination of cultural influences, really. African, Middle Eastern, European.
Expert: Fascinating, isn’t it? And their scuffle with the AU over Western Sahara? An interesting country indeed!
*Me (dodging a subject I haven’t done research on while still trying to sound educated): *
Certainly. You know, I’ll actually be doing an independent study while I’m over there.
Me (to myself [mentally, of course]): Graham, you hipster snob, you….

I think I’ve spent so much time talking about Morocco that I’ve been desensitized to the gravity of such a journey. Who knows if there’s really an effective way to mentally prepare for a trip like this? If it has something to do with being willing step outside one’s comfort zone, I’d say, sure, I’m ready. But if it means accepting the reality that in less than 48 hours I will wandering the streets of Casablanca—even seeing it on paper is shocking—there’s no way I’m anything close to “mentally prepared.”

People ask me all the time: “Are you nervous?” “Are you excited?” “Are you ready?” “Can you believe it?” My answer is usually a confused stare and a slow shrug of the shoulders. I haven’t had time to process how I feel about this. I’ve talked so much on the subject that I’ve hardly spent time thinking about it. My guess is, once I’m a few days or weeks into the swing of things over there, something will click and I will drop my spoonful of couscous and mouth the words: “Holy God. I’m in Morocco.”