Ahlan wa sahlan ya shabab (welcome students),
My name is Shino, and I will be one of your instructors in Morocco (along with my remarkable co-instructor, Cara Lane-Toomey). I have already posted some Yaks with Cara, however I have not yet properly introduced myself. Before diving in, I would like to echo Cara’s sentiment of congratulations and excitement for sharing this journey together. I could not be more thrilled to get to know you all and support you in experiencing the culture and world of Morocco in just a few weeks.
My first encounter with the Middle East included putting together my bicycle at the airport and biking into the hectic, loud, dusty world of downtown Cairo at age fifteen. The excess of newness I attempted to absorb overwhelmed me. I was exhausted from travel, lost on how to communicate, and entirely enthralled. My eyes were open. I was ready to learn, to see, to experience a new perspective, new culture, and new language. My excitement did not stop me from facing challenges and disappointments. Instead, it provided motivation to problem solve creatively and to approach each situation with an open mind.
I returned home to Western Massachusetts with many stories, but more importantly, an understanding that there are many ways to live fulfilling lives in the world. There is no one right way, and no reason to fear the differences. I didn’t know it then, but the lessons I learned during that experience would shape the rest of my life. The light in people’s eyes when I spoke my three Arabic words in Cairo inspired me to study Arabic throughout high school and college. The kindness I experienced from total strangers inspired me to work toward confronting negative stereotypes about that region of the world. In college, I majored in Peace and Conflict Resolution and International Studies and I studied abroad multiple times, including an academic year in Morocco. And upon graduation, I worked for an organization whose mission was to “foster mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and peoples of the Middle East and North Africa.”
I worked in Washington D.C. for six years, facilitating study abroad experiences for college and high school students in (at one time or another) Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Oman. I helped set expectations, taught intercultural learning skills, and guided students through unpacking their experiences abroad. Sharing in the journey of discovery, and supporting students in stepping outside their comfort zones to find a broader world-view brings me inspiration and motivation. I led a program with Where There Be Dragons in Morocco last summer, and I am looking forward to returning with you all to step outside our comfort zones as we learn together.
I am currently living in England, studying for a Master’s Degree in International Education and Globalization. I moved here in September, so have recently experienced the challenges and excitements of adapting to life in a new place. I know that preparing for an experience like this one in Morocco can seem daunting, even when you feel excitement. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions, concerns, excitements, stories, or thoughts you might have. I have loved reading the introductions that have already been posted, and look forward to hearing from the rest of you. While you all are familiar with other already, Cara and I are eager to get to know you as well, as we prepare for this dynamic experience in Morocco!
Shino Marta Yoshen