After living in Rabat, Morocco for two months, I have much to reflect over. I have met incredible people in my program, and we have shared the best experiences as we have traveled Morocco. I have learned many lessons over the course of these two months, but the most important has been the many stereotypes that have been broken.
Before I came to Morocco, the very good-intentioned advice I received from my friends and family turned out to be quite misguided, or simply inapplicable to the situations I have faced. I heard many times that, as a young woman in a Muslim majority country, I should never walk alone anywhere, especially at night. For the first two weeks, I let this advice scare me into not going out with my friends or returning home early and missing out on what they were doing. However as I became more confident in myself and my knowledge of Rabat, I decided to give it a shot.
I walked to a friend’s house on a Sunday afternoon so we could do homework together. I walked there by myself, using a screenshot of the route I had looked upon Google Maps before leaving my host home (I still had to ask someone for directions). I made it safely, and I returned alone to my home that evening.
That day marked a clear change for my time in Rabat. I felt more comfortable in finding where to go in the city because I could orient myself to known landmarks and areas. I felt comfortable walking alone in familiar places, day and night. I still have kept my guard up, as all people should. But it is no different than living in a large city in the US. In fact, many times I felt safer walking the streets of Rabat than I’ve felt walking the streets in the US.
There are a number of other stereotypes that have been broken by my time here in Morocco, but this was definitely one of the most worrisome for me and my family before I studied abroad.
Before you study abroad, think of the sterotypes you have about that place. Don't be surprised if after your time there, you find they were unfounded.