Introducing Fall 2018 Blog Correspondent: Gwenyth Szabo
Morocco is not the country people expect when they ask me where I am studying abroad. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, and for most of my family and friends, the ideal travel destinations are in Europe. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to France and Greece, but when travelling to non-European countries, answering the question about where I am studying abroad involves more than just a one-word answer.
Usually, I explain that I’m an International Studies major at American University, and my regional focus is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). I tell them about AMIDEAST’s Regional Studies in French program, and my interest in MENA history, culture, and politics. I discuss my love for languages and my passion as an active remote translator, former ESL teacher, and former intern at an immigration law firm. I assure them that I’ll be safe, but initially it was frustrating and at times led me to question and reconsider my study abroad destination.
Despite any seeds of doubt, I knew I had made the right decision at the beginning of the summer when the World Cup started. Soccer is my favorite sport, along with Taekwondo and basketball. With the United States being eliminated, I was out of options for teams to cheer for. The first game of the World Cup I watched was Morocco vs. Iran, and I felt of sense of closeness being able to cheer for a team that did not garner the same level of support among Americans as their European counterparts. When Aziz Bouhaddouz on the Morocco team scored the own goal, I was disappointed but was able to confirm that Morocco was without a doubt the place I wanted to study.
Aziz’s blunder was a sign. When I was in high school, I played for my school’s soccer team, and my first ever year playing, during my first game, we scored on ourselves. It was humiliating, and the rest of the season wasn’t much better.
I learned a lot from that season and next three years; I learned how to maintain a positive attitude in frustrating situations and the value of teamwork and communication. The goal reminded me that while I may face challenges in a new environment, I’m ready and confident to embrace a new culture, even when I make mistakes. Ultimately, I am happy with my decision, just like I was proud of my team after a tough first season, and now I am ready to be part of a new team.
In fact, I am hoping to get involved in a sports while I’m abroad in Morocco. I currently play intramural basketball and soccer in college, and I am an active member of the AU Taekwondo Club. When I’m not playing sports, I can usually be found either working or studying in the campus library.
I am beyond excited to study in Morocco, and while I can’t deny that the uncertainty is accompanied by a nervous feeling, I am keeping an open mind. Part of defending my decision to study in Morocco has lead me to develop a bit of pride when discussing my plans to go abroad. I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to travel and study in another country and appreciate the support I have back home from my friends and family. I look forward to sharing my new adventures and personal growth during the next four months!