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