Should I Stay or Should I Go?

| January 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

During the spring of my freshman year, I decided, on a complete whim, to study abroad. Had I ever left the United States before? L-O-L, NO. So, obviously I should go to Morocco, right? What was the persuading factor you might ask? An email. Yeah…not my most well thought out decision, I’ll admit. I got an email telling me to apply to go to Morocco so I did. But, it was the absolute best decision of my life.

© Kayla Nguyen 2014

© Kayla Nguyen 2014

It has been one year since I went to and returned from Rabat, Morocco, and boy do I miss it. Morocco is a beautiful country with a rich culture and warm, inviting people. Walking through the streets of the medina you can hear at least four different languages at a time, woven together and functioning like a well-oiled machine (I bought a bottle of water once and the transaction occurred in three languages). Although having so many languages around can make it difficult, it really is true what they say—people are so receptive when you make an effort to speak with them in their language.

I remember during one of my last weeks in Rabat, my peers and I went to buy rghaif (similar to a crepe and very small) from a little old woman. While we were waiting we asked how much it cost, in Arabic, and she was so excited that she tried to respond with the number in English. She couldn’t remember how to say “three” so we helped her but the “th-” sound gave her some trouble. We all laughed together and it was one of the most outstanding moments I have ever been a part of. Here we were, American college students and she a local Moroccan woman, and we were laughing together at the language barrier between us. Culture, age, background, and language did not stand in the way.

Leaving Morocco was so bittersweet. I was leaving my host family who had been by my side in what I would say was the worst moment of my life. I was leaving my Moroccan friends who had shown me the country, taught me the local dialect, and kept me company. I was leaving the comfort of Arabic—hearing and speaking it every day. I was leaving the country that taught me more about myself than I had probably, consciously learned in the last 18 years. Leaving Morocco was also amazing, though. I remember when we could see Newark out of the airplane windows and I started bawling even though I’m from a small town in Wisconsin. After getting home, though, I realized Morocco had given me the travel bug.

There was no way I wasn’t going to study abroad again because Morocco taught me so much. It taught me the beauty of Islam. It taught me that in our (American) consciousness of the misfortune of other countries, we often insult the people living there. It taught me that toilet paper isn’t a necessity. It taught me that being surrounded by people who speak the same language as you is something we too often take for granted. So, all this made me apply to study abroad in Guatemala for the Spring 2016 semester.

photo credit: p1060272 via photopin (license)

photo credit: p1060272 via photopin (license)

Boston University has one of the most unique study abroad programs in Guatemala—it’s an archaeology program that only happens in the spring of even years. You spend four weeks in a homestay in Antigua studying Spanish, and the last twelve weeks are spent living in tents on an archaeological dig site where you are doing hands-on fieldwork with real archaeologists. Cool, huh? It’s INCREDIBLE! Then I hit a snag. My student account took a while to process, so I started to worry whether I could afford to go. I freaked out. I mean really freaked out. I didn’t have a plan B. I had always planned that this was what I was going to do.

I started thinking. Would it be so bad if I had to stay in Boston for the spring? Yeah, it was going to be cold and grey and I had done it before. But, there were also a lot of opportunities I would miss out on by going to Guatemala. There were organizations on campus I wanted to join, internships I wanted to apply for, and people I wanted to spend more time with. I started thinking about how much of a readjustment coming back from Morocco was. I cried every day after class for the first three weeks not only because I missed Morocco, but also because everything was so…different. Different from Morocco and different from my freshman year.

The fall semester of my sophomore year–the semester I went to Morocco–was when Michael Brown was killed. Discussions of racism and discrimination in a so-called equal United States were rampant and I had no idea where my place was in the conversation. Did I talk on behalf of my White family and friends, the people I had been surrounded by my whole life? Or did I acknowledge the micro-aggressions that, until now, I had largely brushed off as a part of life even though they always tugged at my sense of identity? I missed a lot while I was abroad in Morocco and now decisions had to be made. I have never regretted my decision to go, but coming back to this new reality was hard.

So, when the time came to decide whether or not to go to Guatemala, the FOMO (fear of missing out) won. It sounds silly, right? To choose staying in Boston when I had such an awesome opportunity ahead of me and the amazing testament about study abroad provided from Morocco. But honestly, I want to use this semester to learn more about Boston. I was in Boston all summer, and I never really explored the city. How? I don’t know. There is a lot that I want to do in Boston, at Boston University, and with my friends who are graduating in May. Don’t get me wrong though, the adventures are not over. Senior year spring, I’ll be gone. Hopefully.

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Category: featured, Reflections

Kayla Nguyen

About the Author ()

Kayla is a Senior studying Biological Anthropology and Arabic. She is from a small town in Wisconsin--her inspiration for coming to Boston. When she's not writing blog articles, she enjoys cooking, watching movies with giant bowls of popcorn, and considering going to the gym.

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