Our planet houses, feeds and keeps alive 7 billion people. It has 6 continents, almost 200 countries and a variety of peoples and ethnicities. There are over 27 million flight hours each year. Almost 3 million Moroccans live outside of their home country, 20 000 of which live in France only. An even greater number of people travelling aboard can be counted each year. One of them is me, Nîma Mesbahi, a 20 year old Moroccan going to Washington DC for a semester.
I have been to a traditional Moroccan school, a French high school and I am now studying at an American style liberal arts university. I can speak Arabic, French, English and dabble in Spanish. Sometimes, I think about identity and what makes us who we really are. Is it our color, language, nationality, religion? Or is what music we listen to or what books we read ? Or maybe is it everything. But when I really think about it language, identity and nationally may diverge but cultures meet, overlap and converge. There is no such thing as a unique culture as every nation has been influenced by another one at some point; forever graving a mark, an imprint that would later become its official seal. Morocco for example, is most famous for its exquisite mint tea served in silver teapots with almond pastry. Little do people know that the tea used to make the renowned atay originally comes from Mainland China and the teapot was designed and manufactured in Manchester, England. There are endless examples of how habits and cultural specificities that we think of as being unique to one particular country are in reality the result of a boiling melting pot that dates way before the Internet.
One must admit however that the handy little invention called the Internet has enabled each and every one of us to become connected and wired to each other. Bound by the age of technology, we have become one; sharing a common quotidian, and a common life. Nevertheless, and as much as the various interactions we are part of seem important to us, a hardware computer stands between the real experience and us. Living in DC for a semester would most definitely be the real thing: an opportunity for me, a young Moroccan to experience a whole new life. It is something akin to taking a veil off, a veil separating us from experiencing true cultural interaction.
This process of taking the veil off and embracing, even for a semester’s time, a whole new life is quite frightening to say the least. I have never left home for more that a month and to be frank, going on exchange to the United States would most definitely be one of the scariest moments of my life. When I first go accepted to university and had to move out to another city leaving everything that I had carefully built around me over the years, was truly intimidating. But, I survived; I adapted to my environment and managed to get myself a bunch of crazy people I call my friends. To say that I’m going to miss them would be, well, kind of cheesy, but true nonetheless. I have grown accused to each and everyone of them, with their quirks, weird habits, incredibly loud laughs and what not.
The idea of having to do it all over again, in a new city, a new country is nerve wracking, but when I come to think of it, one cannot live a full life without taking risks, and I feel ready to leave the cocoon that my life currently is and delve into the depth of the unknown. I would expect this particular experience to be fruitful and enriching. Living in a country thousand of kilometers away from home, meeting new people, sharing cultures and ultimately growing up. Growth is what I expect and look forward to the most. Maturing and flourishing into a more confident, self-assure and determined young Moroccan student who has been fortunate enough to fully live this experience. Making new friends, tasting the famous American food (hot dogs !!), seeing news landscapes and making forever-lasting memories.