By: Kalyn, NSLI-Y Morocco, Academic Year 2013 – 2014
Ana taliba, meshi tourist.
One of the most important things you will ever learn in a language is a list of simple but integral phrases that most students refer to as “survivor skills.” Anyone who has ever studied abroad is acutely aware of the fact that these sentences can mean the difference between successful communication and a major faux-pas. While these phrases are many and far between, some of my favorites include:
1. “Where is the bathroom?”
2. “What kind of meat is really in this kebob?”
3. “Do you actually know which direction my house is?”
So when I was informed that “I’m a student, not a tourist” is one of the most important sentences to know in Morocco, I couldn’t help but laugh. This seemed like such a simple and unnecessary phrase to me; I mean after all, it is pretty evident that I’m not exactly from this part of the world.
As I started to venture farther and farther into my city, I became acutely aware of how vastly different I was from the non-locals in the area. At first I believed that I was just as much of a tourist as they were, but as I watched their actions and behaviors I began to feel much more a part of the culture of Morocco than I had originally thought. I’ve become a master at identifying them due to the fact that they all possess at least one of these characteristics:
1. Travels in flocks.
2. Often seen with a glazed-over expression of bewilderment (imagine a heard of sheep).
3. Snaps photos of locals without asking for permission.
4. Wears clothing far below the standards of modesty that are set forth by the religion.
5. Doles out money blindly without even second guessing the price.
6. Gravitates towards the much more modern and European parts of town.
While observing the behavior of these aforementioned people, I felt the distance between myself and them continue to grow. I began to develop a sense of belonging to the culture here, as if I am no longer an outsider, but rather a citizen that is privy to the true Morocco, a country that is vastly different from the circus that is performed for these outsiders.
To me, this is the beauty of studying abroad. As you begin to integrate and communicate with those around you, you start to feel at home. Rather than being a tourist with no real knowledge or understanding of the culture, you become part of a family and a community despite the differences that once separated you. And this is a feeling that I wouldn’t trade for the world.