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Reflections of a Lawrentian in Morocco

Life at Lawrenceville is truly rhythmic. Wake up. Class. Consultation. Lunch. Class again. Athletics. Arts. Chill. Dinner. Socialize. Study Hall. Feed maybe. Sleep… Every day is part of a six cycle that you constantly become more ingrained into. It’s hard, but you try your best to shine through the cracks of an intense environment. It is through such constraint – that feeling of wanting to just pause time for a couple hours — that you develop a sense of independence.

I’ve grown to respect and appreciate such independence. I find myself spending Sunday mornings in my room cleaning, surfing the internet, or scrolling through social media. Many of us like to call this “alone time.”

When summer hit for myself and 7 Lawrentians, vacation kicked off with a scent of royalty, a plane ride to Morocco on the one and only Royal Air Maroc.

The first couple of days in Idriss Zehroun were pleasant. We stayed in a cozy hotel hidden inside a maze of narrow streets. Most of the time was spent learning about Moroccan culture and each other. The one night in Meknes was a similar experience: all of us together as a pact. Life was relatively easy and comfortable.

On the other, our current experience with the homestays has most definitely taken us out of our comfort zones. The preparatory reading material – even the stay in Idriss Zehroun and Meknes – feels merely like an emulation of Moroccan life. It is only until staying with a Moroccan family that I slowly grasped the in and outs of Moroccan culture.

Quite frankly, Moroccan culture is nothing like what I am used to, and it is unsettling at times. Everyone is so, very tightly knit. I keep looking for some much-needed alone time but it’s nowhere. My homestay brother Mouad’s friends frequently visit our house to walk us over to meet our teachers in the morning, have lunch with family, or just watch a movie at night. Our homestay dad never fails to visit our room in the morning and before night to give his best regards despite the language barrier. Our homestay mom provides us daily with home-made Moroccan dishes.

Sure, we are three American students (or at least three students studying in the US) which could attract attention and superficial behavior. However, the level of loyalty, kindness and love make it hard for me to think that my Moroccan family and friends’ motives are not intentional. Now on day three, I can confidently say that I have made great relationships with my homestay family and their friends.

I am conflicted. The amount of socializing and connectivity drains me. Yet there is an unresistable charm that my homestay exudes. On a recent hike with the group and their homestay families and friends, many of us struggled to climb the arduous length of the trail; nevertheless, when we reached the top, no one hesitated to work together to collect wood, set up a fire, scare monkeys, and prepare tajines. Each homestay group brought some ingredients, and everyone relished a life-long experience with each other.

When we came together to play games at the peak, I came to a stark realization: the power of community. We all heard of the phrase “team work makes dream work,” but the extent of what team work means in Morocco far exceeds my prior understanding and, only naturally, far surpassed my expectation of what dream work could achieve.

My host parents always ask if I am tired. Maybe Moroccans, too, recognize the constant presence of friends and family is effortful. But they also see the more subtly visible values of friendship and love that we tend to miss back home.

Cooking Tajine in the cedar forest.

The boys at a vista on the hike.

Us with members from our Moroccan host families hiking in Azrou.