The Beauty of Difference

“I was scared when we entered Morocco. The force of the unknown and stories of the Middle East from American news outlets had influenced my expectations… I had taken our differences and created generalizations and then associated comfort, pain, or pleasure when I saw a synagogue, church, or mosque. As we traveled the streets of Morocco I see that it is alive because of the different cultures and beliefs of the country while also holding on to its traditions. Something that America could do more of.”

This quote from Jackson ‘21 is a wonderful example of the transition we see our students go through on Global Immersion Studies (GIS) trips. We all experience stereotypes and make generalizations, it is the animal within keeping us alive by identifying friend from predator. We discuss this with our GIS students before departure. It is our ability to reflect and embrace the unfamiliar that makes us intelligent travelers. We are different than the people we meet abroad, and although it is acceptable to be tentative, we also ask our students to step out of their comfort zones and greet these differences with open minds and arms.

Our Morocco group began their journey by touring the Medina in Tangier. They had an informative conversation about modern-day Morocco at the Darna Women’s center and rode camels on the beach of the artist town, Asila. Our partners at Morocco Exchange gave our students an Arabic 101 Survival Class to help them better understand their surroundings. While riding camels, swimming under waterfalls, and touring the Blue Pearl of Morocco are exciting adventures, our students have also had an opportunity to explore local artisan trades. From instrument making to bread baking to wandering local marketplaces, our students are able to understand daily life in Morocco better.

Jackson closed out his journal entry saying, “Experiencing this way of life showed me the beauty of difference and also how similar we all are.” We know our GIS trips are successful when our students returned changed by these cultural experiences, new friendships, and global adventures. Thanks to Jackson for letting us in on his transformation.

Look out for our next blog post all about homestays.