Beauty in Differences

Mountain Connection, April 16, 2019

“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 travel 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 journal entry from Jackson ‘21 is a wonderful example of the transition we see our students go through on Global Studies (GS) trips. They know stereotypes and make generalizations, it is how animals identify friends from predators. We discuss this with students before departure and ask them to notice this tendency. To reflect and then embrace the unfamiliar thus making us intelligent travelers. We are different from the people we meet during GS, and although it is acceptable to be tentative, we ask our students to step out of these comfort zones and greet differences with open minds.

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. Through 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 GS trips are successful when our students return changed by these cultural experiences, having forged new friendships, and immersed themselves in global adventures.