Being in Rabat, Morocco was the most amazing experience of my life. It was the first time that I have ever been abroad, and I definitely want to make the trip back over the Atlantic as soon as I can. Our trip started when we left State College on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break around 11 PM, bound for Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport. Our flight took off around 6:30 PM, and we were in Paris by 8 AM the next morning. After a three hour layover, our flight from Paris left for Rabat, Morocco and we arrived by 1 PM.
In Rabat, almost everything is small-business based. They don’t have large corporations, or at least I didn’t see the frequency of them. Almost everything is independent; markets, taxis, grocers, etc. So naturally, almost every price is negotiable. Our first Taxi ride resulted in us paying about $40 USD; $30 more than we should have.
Daniel was the only person in our cohort of 4 who even spoke a lick of French, but that was enough to at least find our hostel. We had a construction worker lead us there, who was very kind and helpful. The language barrier proved difficult throughout the trip. We made friends with another student attending the conference from Boston University who spoke pretty fluent French, but communicating with city-goers and market business-people was still difficult. In Morocco, most everybody is bilingual, speaking French and Arabic.
The conference was a pretty great experience in of itself. It took about a half hour train ride to get there every morning. About 70% of the delegates were Moroccan. In addition to getting to know a lot of the delegates and exchange social media, I was also able to meet the Director of the program, the former Minister of Foreign Investments of Macedonia, and a few other really cool people like NasDaily (he makes hugely popular Facebook videos). The connections I made were really valuable in the non-profit sector, and the adult guests gave me a lot of great advice that I plan on using to help grow my organization, F.O.R.M. Consulting.
Once the conference was over, we went exploring. We toured the former King’s grave, the coastal/beach area of the city, the Jewish market district, and a few other places. We also explored just about every market in the city. Each day, we tried to eat at a different place; I enjoyed the Moroccan cheeseburgers the most (although the Tajine was also spectacular). We spent a lot of time socializing in the hostel as well, meeting with other travelers from Texas, Oregon, Boston, Australia, Canada, France, and Spain. We made especially good friendships with the girl from Australia and the man from Canada, Liam. We had incredible conversations about each of our respective governments, philosophy as a discipline, and the importance of rhetoric in a democratic society.
I was sad to have to come home from Morocco. Although it was nice to be back for Thanksgiving, my time in Rabat gave me a perspective that I otherwise never would have had. And for that, I am very, very grateful and thankful for the PLA’s support.