Salam wa lakum and thank you College of Charleston for allowing me to share my experiences as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar to Morocco. I want to let readers know how study abroad is not just for undergraduates, we can achieve things that we would never in a million years imagine ourselves doing.
BE READY TO BE LUCKY
It was over two years ago that Dr. Folds-Bennett posted the call for applications for the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship at the Graduate School Office where I was working as Graduate Assistant. I was halfway through my Masters in Public Administration, hoping to go back to work in government administration. I did not think that another study abroad was in my future, especially after Masters ( you know, when you really are broke). Nevertheless, I treated it as if it was a job application, a thing you have just to do all over the place in hopes of getting a bite. Long story short, I became very involved in the Rotary culture, received the scholarship, and have spent a year of my life studying in a developing country of North Africa.
YOU’D BE SURPRISED
When you live abroad, you are experiencing little surprises around every corner. From squat toilets, to new dance moves, to cooking techniques-you learn constantly. With that being said, I was most surprised as some of the bigger assumptions and preconceived notions that living abroad has outright disproved:
1) With the right attitude, you can have an amazing learning and traveling experience with your spouse and child. Rotary, Fulbright, Olmstead, and many other organizations support families. Boost your career and share a meaningful time with those you love most.
2) Sure the hospitals in Morocco can kill you but, you’d be surprised how cheap and amazing private healthcare in developing countries can be. According to scholars in Israel, expecting mothers could not be better cared for. Ask around to find out.
3) Beauty really is completely and totally relative. Nver had my paleness been so applauded, never have I been told to put on more weight. A year without fashion magazines has made me want so much less. To live where make-up is reserved for weddings is actually a relief.
4) Security isnt just street smarts. You pay for security. Developing countries can seem cheap at first, but it costs for privacy and security.
5) Friends are not forever. Living away for so long, no matter where you are in life or your career, will change your friendship base. Some people stay in touch with you, some dont, some are cool just picking up were you left off months ago. You will meet some amazing new friends and sometimes you just realize you were the one who needed to learn how communicate better.
6) Good schools are not just developed in countries. At Al Akhawayn University, I have professors from Harvard, Oxford, The UN Development Programme and more. I was the top MPA graduate of 2012, and my Moroccan school is kicking my butt each week.
ONE DOOR CAN OPEN ANOTHER
I learned French and specialized in Caribbean Studies thinking I would be working in the nonprofit field. After I received my Masters in Public Administration and working for a government agency, I thought I would be going in that trajectory as a career. Yet, the experience abroad under Rotary gave me a specialization in North African politics. Since they liked my work, my university (Al Akhawayn) www.aui.ma, has waived my tuition and ask me to stay and finish the Masters. Now, it looks like I’ll still end up pursuing a career in Development, just in a vastly different part of the world with the ability to carry it to a more academic level in the future.
In conclusion, you may find that putting yourself out there and taking chances can change your preconceived idea of where you will end up. Moreover, it is totally okay to be flexible and opportunistic about it your dreams, goals and aspirations.
Im currently fundraising for the auxiliary costs of my third semester. I have the drive and direction, but need your help it make it a reality.