How long is 10 months? How far does 4,137 miles feel? What does it means to live in a country that is not your own? I have found my answers to these questions this year, my truth. Keep in mind that it is just a single truth. I cannot tell you what will fill every mile between you and your family, or how wide your oceans will feel, or what the YES Abroad experience will be for you. I can only share my own journey.
To me, 4137 miles, the exact distance between my hometown and host town, feels like nothing at all when I am full. When my new friend hands me a bracelet, when I produce conversations in my host languages, and when I cook chocolate chip cookies for my host family, I forget that there is an ocean between me and everything I knew before this experience. My experience fills me with joy, distracting me from the space. However, sometimes the days here are too quiet, the words get stuck somewhere between my brain and my mouth, and everything feels worn out but still doesn’t quite fit. This is when the distance locks me into a staring contest, and distance doesn’t blink until I find something here to fixate on. Some days, I don’t just feel far from ‘home’ but I feel far from myself, the existence I led in the comfort of my first home.
As far as what living in another country means: for me, it has meant constant evaluation and reflection of myself and my surroundings. It means the extremes—the good things shine and the bad ones glare. I am always wearing metaphorical sunglasses. At the beginning, I looked through yellow sunglasses, and everyone else wore blue. Now most of the time I feel like I’m wearing green—a mix of both. I can process day to day situations, but I cannot separate my reputation, mindset, or actions, from the land I left over 205 days ago, and I’m okay with that. Living in Morocco has meant (and continues to mean): a synthesis of multiple viewpoints, learning to be myself, know myself, and most importantly, love myself in the context of my new environment.
My wisdom to you: Be the best you can be, but don’t be afraid of confusion and ‘failure.’ We all feel that way sometimes, even if our social media postings tell another story. Even though a picture is worth one thousand words, no number of words can capture this experience. Write your own story—of your exchange, yourself, and your life. Make it beautiful, but define for yourself what beauty is. I find beauty in the simplest moments of my exchange—the walk to buy groceries with my host sisters, the good morning greetings shared with the store owner next to my house. My exchange overflows with beauty and by that I do not mean it is all good or easy or even possible to process.
My host mom is the kitchen, arguing about something with my host uncle and one of my host sisters is trying to drag the other out of bed. I spent today drinking 50 cent orange juice on plastic stools and wandering amongst the alleys of a medieval city. Tomorrow I’m going to have to sit in math class, but that’s okay because I understand it now. I’m going back soon, and I’m at peace with that too in this moment. My dreams came true—maybe not exactly as I thought they would as I stood in your place last year—but I came to Morocco and I carved out a new home, and I’m thriving in it. I couldn’t ask or hope for more (for myself and for all of you).
Catherine in Rabat