The Morocco Exchange Weekend Trip was one of the most necessary and exciting trips I went on while I was interning abroad in Barcelona. As much as I loved my other adventures, this one was different. I wasn’t just visiting Morocco, an underdeveloped country, to go sight-seeing – I was going in order to immerse myself as much as possible in a span of just four days. I was going to learn about Moroccan culture and to educate myself on a place that is so different from both the U.S. and Spain.
The Moroccan way of life is very different from my own – their religion, politics, clothing, and the dynamics in their romantic relationships. Maybe it’s because I’m a psychology major, but to understand their mindset is what truly drew me into going on this trip.
The first day started off early. Once we landed in Morocco, we met our amazing trip leader, Sarah, who is from the U.S. but has lived in Morocco for 10 years. We did a little introduction game and then went straight to the city of Tangier, where we were able to meet 3 young women and eat lunch in the town’s women’s center. The women gave us a tour of the place and shared information about the women’s center and its mission. After the tour we were able to have quality time with the women while eating some delicious Moroccan food. We were able to hear about their opinions and perspectives on their lives as compared to our lives as young adults coming from the U.S. It was such an eye opening experience and that’s when I knew how great of a trip this was going to be. Questions came flooding in about their religion, social norms, family dynamics, culture, politics, and so much more.
Then, we headed out to Rabat to meet our homestay families for the weekend. My two roommates and I got very lucky with our family; the parents were so lovely and they had a 17 year old daughter who had learned some English over the years from hosting other study abroad students. They were also hosting a current study abroad student for the semester, which was awesome because she could speak Arabic and we were able to exchange stories of being abroad in different countries. She introduced us to her friend and we all chatted while eating a delicious meal with chicken, potatoes, and vegetables. We talked for hours and then headed to bed, excited for the next day. I fell asleep thinking of questions to ask and wondered what more we would have the chance to see.
The next day, we started off with breakfast at the homestay: flat bread, honey, peach jam, and the best green tea I’ve ever had. We then headed to a student center in town where we met 3 other local university students. Our almost 2 hour discussion with them was intriguing to say the least. The answers we received from them were almost the exact opposite from the answers we’d received from the group of young women the previous day. To witness how different the daily lives were (in regards to their social norms, clothing choices, etc.) from two cities just 3 hours apart was very interesting to me. Later that day, we met some of the friends of the local college students. We all split into groups and walked to the old town by the beach. It was such a lovely experience to talk with them and hear about their everyday lives, interests, and hobbies. We met back up at a little cafe and had some typical drinks from Rabat. We eventually all said our goodbyes and then next thing I knew, I was experiencing one of the biggest culture shocks yet. The girls and I went to a Hammam, which is a large public bathing house. Although the experience was unusual for us, we were all very happy to have gotten the chance to experience it. It is something that a regular tourist would most likely not be able to do. The rest of the night consisted of more talk with our homestay families and another great dinner.
Our last day in Morocco, we got to spend more time with the local college students, go to Chefchaouen and shop, and meet a family who lived far in the mountains. We brought groceries to them, which is a common practice in Morocco when being a guest, and the family made us lunch. This was a great experience because in this meeting we got to hear from adults, whereas our previous conversations were more with people our age. I didn’t even realize how curious I would be about what they had to say, but I most certainly was. To hear what their hopes were for their children and some of the “love stories” of the adults shocked me. Arranged marriages and meeting your future partner for only one day (or even not at all) before being married were very common practices. After our discussion we took a small hike with the kids of the village to the top of a hill, and the view was absolutely beautiful.
This trip was truly one for the books, and the fact that I got to do all of this knowing nobody and coming out with new friends (from both Barcelona SAE and Morocco) was very rewarding. The views, the food, the conversations, and most of all, the people, made this trip so worth it. I can’t recommend this trip to future Barcelona SAE students enough; the experiences I had were amazing.