Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to see how independent I actually am. I went to Morocco and I didn't know any Arabic or French, or what to expect in general. The language barrier made me want to pick up on both languages so that I could connect and engage with my host family. My host family was amazing and showed me that complete strangers can become family. By the end of the trip, I picked up on very basic Arabic and some French, and I learned how to navigate the city of Rabat. We visited various other cities and met so many caring people who were enthusiastic about their country, and wanted to connect with us so that anytime we come back to Morocco, we have people and places to go to.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: I would tell other black women who want to study abroad to go for it. Studying abroad will not only provide you with a more open mind, and a greater worldview, but it can also help you to obtain further opportunities. You can even pick up more languages. And most of all, by studying abroad, you can use your stories and experiences to inspire other black women to study abroad.
During the [program], another UMD student that I was staying with and I found out that our host brother's birthday was coming up. We wanted to do something nice for him, so on his birthday, we bought him his favorite dessert and an ice cream cake from a local frozen yogurt shop. On the day of his party, we came back home and our host mother decorated the house with balloons, banners, and she baked all types of cakes. Family members and friends came over, and we listened to American music, and danced to Moroccan music. My host sister even taught me how to belly dance! Even though I was surrounded by people I had never met before, I felt right at home.
Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: Don't let language barriers turn you away from studying abroad. As stated before, I spoke no French or Arabic prior to going to Morocco, but now I can understand and speak a little bit of both. Not knowing the language actually makes you want to immerse yourself more in the culture, and you'll realize that despite the difference in language, you can meet amazing people anywhere. And the amazing people you meet can become lifelong friends.
While I did anticipate having to be independent, I didn't know just how independent I would actually have to be. We had to navigate the city on our own, find places to eat lunch, and get our own transportation throughout the city. I adjusted by remembering landmarks around the city so that I could find my way home. I learned which restaurants and cafes I liked the best, and I became closer with other UMD students on the trip, and we figured out things together.