The most important thing I learned the first time I lived in Morocco was that I am not Moroccan. It seems obvious, but it sure took me a long time to learn. I wanted to study at a Moroccan university because I wanted to have lots of Moroccan friends, participate in Moroccan traditions, and speak Moroccan Arabic. The friends I have made in Morocco are certainly friends I never would have made anywhere else, and I’ve learned a lot about traditions, culture, and language. However, I haven’t really made any close Moroccan friends. But I am okay with that; just because I am not having the experience I expected, doesn’t mean I’m not learning a lot.
As I’ve mentioned before, I love living in Morocco. But perhaps not for things directly related to Moroccan culture. I originally came here to study Arabic, but now, after many hours of Standard Arabic I actually prefer to take this opportunity to learn French. And that’s a great thing to do here, because Moroccans are not judgmental of bad French! I also have really enjoyed being part of Christian communities in Morocco, and I think being part of a minority has strengthened those bonds and made my place in the community more obvious. To give a more mundane example, I also really love tea, and I enjoy that there are many types of tea available, but I don’t really like how sugary Moroccan mint tea is. So in general, I benefit from the situation I am in because of being in Morocco, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons.
I think it is important to learn about the culture you are living in, but I also think that it is important not to forget who you are and how you may or may not fit into your host country. I’m not Moroccan…but I am so thankful for what I have learned and experienced in this country, because those things would not be the same anywhere else in the world.