Blog

Pushing the Limits: Moroccan Study Abroad

February 28, 2016

ISEP student Virginia B. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a political science major from Hamline University, and is currently studying abroad at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco.

The weekend that marked my first month in Morocco started with breakfast at a hostel in Chefchaouen, a city that is known for its whitewashed buildings with accents in varying shades of blue. Breakfast was served on the rooftop, and like most meals here the food was simple, consisting of black coffee, fresh bread and delicious orange marmalade.

Coffee, bread and orange marmalade breakfast in Morocco
Coffee, bread and orange marmalade breakfast in Morocco

As we waited for our taxi driver, Hassan, to come pick us up, we watched the sun rise over the mountains, slowly bringing the city to life. When Hassan finally arrived, my group was ready to get started on our adventure at Akchour.

Cloudy morning of Morocco skyline
Cloudy morning of Morocco skyline

A note on taxi drivers in Morocco: they seem to think they are in a game of MarioKart and have no qualms swerving around cars they consider to be driving too slow, even when there is oncoming traffic. So the 45-minute drive on the curvy mountain to Akchour was not a trip for the faint of heart, or queasy of stomach, but miraculously we made it in one piece.

Virginia posing in front of a Moroccan landscape
Virginia posing in front of a Moroccan landscape

Once we got to Akchour, I couldn’t help but stand in awe and gawk at the beauty that surrounded me. Mountains accented in the deep greens of the cedars with the red brown of the dirt rose up all around us and two paths diverged going across the bridge that spanned the river that ran between the mountains. Not knowing which way led to the waterfalls, we picked the path that ran to the right and hoped for the best.

Trail map of Morocco
Trail map of Morocco
View of Moroccan bridge with flowing water
View of Moroccan bridge with flowing water

At first, we were full of energy, the path still well maintained and the journey easy because everything around us was new and amazing. But after a while, the path became rockier and steeper, the elevation making the hike more and more exhausting and turning around was sounding more and more tempting.

Steep trail in Morocco
Steep trail in Morocco

The waterfalls were nowhere to be seen and it seemed like our entire journey was for nothing, but then we reached the halfway point, and from an outcropping, I could see the natural bridge known as “God’s Bridge.” Our objective was in sight!

Natural Moroccan bridge called "God's Bridge"
Natural Moroccan bridge called “God’s Bridge”

I was filled with a renewed sense of purpose, and suddenly the journey didn’t seem so hard anymore. It wasn’t that the path had gotten any easier, but now I had a goal to work toward again that distracted me from the physical pain and once I got there I realized it was well worth the exertion.

Virginia posing with rocks on a mountain in Morocco
Virginia posing with rocks on a mountain in Morocco

In a way, my study abroad experience up to this point has been a lot like that day. The first part of the trip was exciting because everything was beautiful and unfamiliar, the sense of adventure still very much alive within me.

Welcome to AUI sign on grass hill in Morocco
Welcome to AUI sign on grass hill in Morocco

Each day presented a fresh adventure, whether that be seeing Roman ruins, meeting people from all walks of life, or even seeing wild monkeys! I was absolutely enamored with my new home.

Virginia posing with Roman Ruins in Morocco
Virginia posing with Roman Ruins in Morocco
Virginia looking off into a sunset by the Roman Ruins in Morocco.
Virginia looking off into a sunset by the Roman Ruins in Morocco.
Selfie photo of Virginia in Morocco
Selfie photo of Virginia in Morocco

As the school part of studying abroad started and I had a set routine, life became a lot more monotonous. That monotony was accompanied by discouragement and very severe homesickness, and I began to question my decision to go to Africa. I thought that I would never make it to the end of my trip, but then came the month mark and I was able to escape campus for a weekend. With that trip, I regained my enthusiasm because I remembered that sense of adventure that drove me here in the first place.

Virginia posing on a bridge in Morocco
Virginia posing on a bridge in Morocco

There are still times that being this far away from home is incredibly difficult and I miss it so much, but that’s natural. The push on the limits of a person’s comfort zone is one of the main reasons people choose not to study abroad. I will agree that it isn’t easy, but as author John Green once said, “I encourage all of you to study broadly, and without fear.” Push past that fear, and that sadness that inevitably comes with being so far away from home, and you will be rewarded at the end with something beautiful, memorable and uniquely yours. My adventure has just begun, and I encourage all of you to start one of your own.

Virginia standing in the middle of a square surrounded by Moroccan buildings
Virginia standing in the middle of a square surrounded by Moroccan buildings

*Are you ready for your own adventure? See all of your study abroad options on the ISEP website.

Want to see more from our ISEP bloggers? Learn more about our ISEP Voices Spring 2016 group.*

Like this Story? Also like us on Facebook.

Blog

Comments

.st0{display:none;} .st1{fill:#BEBEC0;}