5 Years Later: Jack's Experience in Morocco
Jack Connors visited Morocco as a sophomore in high school in 2015 with ImprintEd Abroad. Five years later, he responded to questions about the impact of his experiences in Morocco.
1. What was most memorable about your experience in Morocco 5 years ago? My most memorable experience in Morocco was the time I spent in a homestay in rural village near the Sahara desert. The first day, we explored the kasbah ruins of where the villagers used to live and learned about their history, picnicked in the village’s lush date plantation, and visited their local swimming hole to cool off. The next day, we paired up with a bunch of kids from the local school. We, along with the villager association, went around cleaning up the streets for a few hours. It felt great to be able to give back in some very small way because the villagers were such kind and gracious hosts. That last night, we went to a traditional musical celebration with the local villagers dressed in traditional Moroccan clothing. I could not think of a better way to bring my time there to a close. I was extremely sad to go but grateful for the lifelong friends I made, many of whom I am still in contact with today.
2. Was there a person that you met who most impacted you? Are you still in touch with this person?
The person who impacted me the most was named Merwane. After we left our homestay to go to the Sahara Desert, he accompanied us so I was lucky to get to know him on a more intimate level. Hearing about his background was very eye opening for me. Talking to him, it became clear that we take a lot for granted in the US, in terms of the opportunities we have and the services we have available to us. With that said, Merwane taught me a lot about what it’s like to be a part of a community. Everyone in the village has each others back to an extent that we would find crazy in the US. The residents of his community have survived through good times and bad because they help their neighbors in times of need and celebrate together when things are good. At home, there is of course some sense of community but I think that people are more accustomed to relying on themselves rather than leaning on their community. When I returned to the US, I started to think a lot about how I could take those values and apply them to my own life.
3. What would you like others to know about Morocco? In what ways was it different than you expected? Morocco is a country rooted in a deep cultural heritage that blurs the line between Europe and Africa. This unique heritage is the reason that Morocco is such an amazing place. I think when you go to Morocco, or anywhere for that matter, it’s important you be willing to abide by cultural norms that may seem strange or unfamiliar from a western perspective. Refusing to do so is not brave, if anything it’s disrespectful and it prevents you from experiencing everything that place has to offer.
I also think that, when you go to Morocco, it’s important not to have too many preconceived notions of what it’s going to be like. In America we often perpetuate a vision of Africa as poverty stricken and backwards. That simplistic view of the world simply does not align with reality. It’s important that if you’re going to leave the US you be open to different lifestyles, cultures, and religions.
4. Has your 2-week program in Morocco impacted your life today? What lessons did you learn while abroad? Other than Canada, going to Morocco was the first time I had ever left the US. Looking back, it’s hard to understate how much this trip impacted my life. I gained a whole new perspective and worldview that has allowed me to think more critically about the way I view non-western cultures. On a personal level, the trip ignited a desire to travel and see the world that persists to this day. Since Morocco, I have traveled independently to countries ranging from Spain to Vietnam and felt comfortable getting to know cultures that are very different from my own. I will always be grateful for my time in Morocco and whole-heartedly recommend traveling with ImprintEd Abroad.