By Yesenia Velasquez, Foster Undergraduate and Global Business Center Scholarship recipient who participated in the Morocco Exploration Seminar.
Before diving into this amazing opportunity I had in Morocco, I knew very little about this culture and country. When preparing for this study abroad, I learned a variety of things about Moroccan people, life, and myself. Coming from the United States, we have such a diversity of culture in our society that it was interesting to go to a culture that has a stricter societal norm than the melting pot of people that I am used to.
One of our study abroad program components was participating in city tours. On our very first city tour, we got to visit Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. The design was breathtaking: marble pillars, glass chandeliers, a sliding roof, and one-third of the mosque is over the Atlantic Ocean. Another one of my favorite city tours was going through the narrow alleyways of the medina in Fez. It was difficult to walk through the medina because one, the streets were narrow, two, people transported their items through the medina with a mule, and three, we were in Fez a few days before Eid al-Adha thus people were walking with their sheep through the medina. To get us out of the way, they would yell “Balak” (get out of the way). For the actual holiday, I witnessed a sheep being sacrificed!
Another component of our study abroad program was collaborating with students from Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. Our first activity together was picking up trash from a local park and during this activity; we shared stories about our childhood, being in college, and our cultural norms. It was interesting how some Islamic cultural rituals were similar to my Mexican culture. For example, we both believe in the “evil eye”, however, they use the hamsa to protect against the “evil eye” and in my culture we use an egg to rub off the “evil eye”.
Lastly, the largest component of our program was writing a grant for small organic farmers in the Toubkal Commune. To get to this village, we had to do a three-day trek across the High Atlas Mountains. This was definitely the longest and most intense hike I had ever done. The trek came with many beneficial results: I lost some of my fear for heights, I became very close to my classmates, and of course it was a great workout! My favorite part about the trek was arriving to the campsite, having delicious Moroccan food, and playing card games with my classmates and our trek guides. This trek experience has inspired me to plan a future trek in Peru with classmates from my program.
I am so thankful that I had the privilege to study abroad and learn more about a different culture, which wouldn’t have been possible without the Global Business Center Scholarship. Thank you for making this amazing experience possible!