Naina Horning

Middlebury College 

Discovery defines the study abroad experience. This includes discovery of the self, others, places, and new ways of thinking. My year-long experience in Morocco comprehensively embodied this concept. Through its diversity of people, cultures, languages, and landscapes, Morocco constantly provided opportunities to discover—be it through through late-night café conversations about life, peaceful reflection under the stars of the Atlas Mountains, or people-watching in the tramway on the way to the University every morning. One of my professors, a sharp and deeply-knowledgeable Berber woman from the area of Errachidia, constantly stressed the complexity of Moroccan society, and by the end of my experience I realized why. In Morocco, religiosity, secularism, tradition and modernity meet, offering a palette of learning opportunities to the unknowing foreigner.

This was not my first time living abroad, but it was the first time I had made a concentrated effort to learn a country’s native language and befriend its people. Like anyone seeing Morocco for the first time, I appreciated Morocco with its dazzling zelleej (tile)-lined mosques, endless supply of inexpensive cafés and mouthwatering rafissa, but learning Moroccan Arabic and making Moroccan friends forged a connection between me and the country that I have been unable to feel elsewhere. I did not realize this until my last week in Morocco, when I returned to Rabat after a month-long adventure in a Berber village. I had no pre-arranged accommodation. Drawing on knowledge and experience I acquired through the Middlebury program and outside of it, I applied everything that I had learned to survive on my own, staying with different friends to suit my tight budget. By the end, I had not only done it, but I had adored it. I felt as though life had just begun, and I knew that I had discovered something special.