Assalamu Alaikum Dragons students:
Looking out my office window, I am lucky to have the blue ridge mountains unfold before me. The spectacular view helps me through my work day while at the same time distracting me with an enticing whisper, “Yallah, let’s go on an adventure.” Okay, so the blue ridge mountains don’t speak Arabic, but I digress. Elke, Ismail, and I are ready and full of excitement for our upcoming adventure, and I hope you are too. In no time at all, we will be meeting at the crossroads of mountains and cultures in Morocco, but first, let me introduce myself.
Jeremy Foster Hawkins is my full name, but I go by Foster. Hearing my middle name on a daily basis is a constant reminder for me to promote and encourage the development of my community and myself. Know that I am truly humbled by the opportunity given to me by Dragons to help foster an engaging learning experience for you in Morocco.
I began my journey to Morocco because of a crush. My International Leadership and Development track at Vanderbilt University required me to take five hours or more of a language, and my crush had already signed up for Arabic. I thought, “What a perfect opportunity for some experiential learning?” Alas, the crush faded after the course, but the foundation was laid for my future embrace of the Arabic language and the diverse cultures that speak it.
After graduating I pursued Peace Corps in Morocco, and in preparing for this course, I have been reflecting on my service experience. Did I master the localized Arabic dialect? No. Did my students become fluent in English? No. And yet my time in Morocco, in the desert village of Agdz, still feels full of accomplishment. I realized the most important aspect of my service was not the development work, but the relationships built because friendships between individuals can become understandings across cultures.
As it is with most things in life, nothing is truly free. For Morocco, the price that your family and friends must pay is the ability to invest in their relationships with you during your time abroad. But they gladly pay this price understanding that you are about to discover new places, people, and languages. You are going to ask questions, find answers, and inspire yourself to reach new heights. I hope you make it worth it. Make your trip worth the price paid. Seize opportunities to grow, and exhaust yourself in the world around you!
The Morocco i-team (Instructor Team) is preparing vigorously for this summer. You should too. Start by learning some basic Arabic phrases, go hiking on a trail, read an article that interests you, or take your family out to a Moroccan restaurant. If you have any questions, which I hope you do, please don’t hesitate to ask. My personal email address is [email protected].
I cannot wait to meet you!
Ma’a Salama (with peace),