Know where you’re going, and know how to get back. For some reason, I couldn’t get this saying out of my head during my 29-hour flight travel from Rabat to Pittsburgh. Granted, this phrase is used to describe returning home to the United States and technically this is true for me, since my real family is in Pittsburgh. Yet the more I pondered on this saying, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about my family in the United States. I was thinking about my host family I left behind. I was thinking about the daily beach sunsets. I was thinking about Morocco. I’m dedicating this final blog to two groups of people that I will carry in my heart forever.
For those of you who know me personally, I am not a very emotional person when it comes to goodbyes, and I certainly don’t cry. This all changed on May 13th as I stood in my host family’s apartment with my luggage and bags beside me. I had already hugged and cheek kissed my Hajji and Hajjah several times and made promises to call each other from time to time. Suddenly, as I stood there in the silence of the apartment, all the memories I shared with my Moroccan parents over these four months came flooding into my head, and I began to cry. Hajji and Hajjah started to cry, which only made me cry even worse and soon I was a complete disaster. I would like to apologize to my taxi driver that took me to the airport that day, I promise I’m not always a hot mess.
My host parents taught me kindness and patience, as they certainly needed both when speaking with me in French in Arabic. They taught me to life when life throws something your way, as Hajjah will never let me forget the time I got my pants wet after I got hit by a wave… in January. Lastly, they gave me the ultimate gift anyone can receive on study abroad: a loving home and family. Shukran Hajji and Hajjah.
The other group I need to recognize is my Rabat Beach friends. I going to be honest here, Rabat Beach is not the best beach in the country, and it certainly isn’t the cleanest, but it by far one of my favorite places in Morocco because of one reason: the people. Never in my life have I found a group of people who adopted me into their friend group so quickly and accepted me as one of their own, especially my friend Afif. I met Afif playing beach volleyball two weeks before I left Morocco and that didn’t stop us from becoming brothers to each other. We went to the beach almost every day to either play beach tennis, beach volleyball, swim in the ocean, or just hang out on our towels.
He taught me French and Arabic (including some swears) and I taught him English, a fair trade off in my book. He taught me what life was really like for a young Moroccan. But above all, he taught me loyalty and true friendship. You think I’m exaggerating this? This guy drove all the way to the airport to say good bye to me one last time. If that isn’t true friendship, I don’t know what is.
My study aboard in Morocco is finally “saffi” and it is time for a new group of students. If I can one piece of advice for you, it is this: take risks and put yourself out there. You will be surprised at what you find. Now, if you need me, I’ll be on my next adventure: Senegal!