About the Guest Author: Emily Gallegos is an Advertising major from Oklahoma University (Boomer Sooner!) and has a passion for traveling and languages. Emily is a powerhouse of energy, full of creative ideas and extremely goal oriented, and future focused. I am so glad to have her guest blogging on 108 Klicks Around the world. After reading her experience, give her a shout out in the comments– she would love to hear your feedback!
I Took the Path Less Traveled… and it was Wonderful
I knew that when I went to college that I had to do one thing: learn a new language; that was my goal at first. I had studied Latin culture and language briefly in high school and that was hardly taken seriously, so I wanted to further my abilities. Much to my parents’ displeasure, I became infatuated with the Italian language in my Italian “101” class. Soon, after being in Italian for another two classes and making it my minor, I decided that study abroad was something that was calling my name. However, my parents were also not thrilled with this idea and neither was my bank account. What had started out for a simple love of language turned into a need to go further and expand my cultural knowledge and experience at any cost.
I will say that to my surprise, I was awarded a scholarship that would cover my plane fare to and from Italy for a summer study abroad program. I was ecstatic and started to try and save up as much money as I could. I would work for my parents, work more hours at my part-time job, check out possible loans, and often search for more scholarships to cover other costs. Whilst my parents groaned and grumbled (mostly my dad) that I was wasting money on something that would bring me nothing in the future, I closed my ears and ignored the side comments. It started to wear on my family though and they fought about whether it was right or not for me to spend money on going abroad. Then, I found out that the scholarship I had been promised wouldn’t be given to me until later and I had to buy my plane ticket like NOW.
I begged my parents to sign a “parent plus loan” and claimed I could repay them once I got the scholarship in but they were not receptive. They didn’t believe in credit cards, either, so that wasn’t an option. Now, I don’t want to put the hate on my parents for me not going to Italy. The program did get canceled anyways due to the fact that not enough other people signed up for the summer trip. However, I was definitely crushed that I would not be visiting Sicily and exploring Rome in the summer like I had told all my friends and family that I would be doing.
Luckily for me, I had family in Morocco (the most northwestern part of Africa) and they heard about my misfortune. My aunt offered me the opportunity to come stay with them in the summer for about a month. I was skeptical since I had NO knowledge of the culture, Arabic or French language, and didn’t even know if I would like the food. A longtime friend of mine heard that I was considering going and was desperate to tag-along. She is the one who actually made me want to go. She talked up Morocco and told me some of the staple things they eat and do. I was soon very nervous and excited because I was buying my plane ticket to go see my aunt, uncle and cousins in the summer. She, Elizabeth, came along with me and our trip was a long one.
We stopped in Boston, Madrid, and finally in Tangier, Morocco. We were tired and struck with jet lag but my aunt encouraged us to tour the city of Tangier and absolutely avoid going to sleep in order to acclimate to the time change. I remember the way people drove over there and it was insane. You’d see multiple people on scooters, bumper to bumper driving, honking horns constantly but for some reason it seemed more proficient than driving in America. Well, at least I didn’t see any wrecks. She showed us around the city and we got tea near the coast. That was a beautiful feeling. The sun was warm but it was breezy and I had “Te American” (which definitely was not the tea we drink in America) but was milky and sweet with honey and Lipton. You could find a café on probably every corner. Some are open to women, but most are just for men.
We came back to her apartment and met with my cousins and my Uncle. We had lunch with food from the market downstairs and it was fantastic. Couscous over there is fantastic and it is NOT what we are used to. They pile on the veggies with their couscous. I could talk about the food for hours.
My aunt took us to at least three other cities in Morocco. We went to Rabat, Meknes, and Chefchaouen. Those places were all beautiful in unique ways. Tangier and Rabat have the North Atlantic coast, while Chefchaouen and Meknes have their hills and mountains. All of them have a strong history. I went to a city covered in blue roofs, the medinas of Rabat and Tangier, the Cascades d’ Ackhour where we ran in springs and climbed over waterfalls, I rode a camel in the ocean while the camel trainer sang to the camels in Spanish, and even saw Roman ruins. I think my aunt knew how much I wanted to go to Italy, not only for the language but for the history as well. Because I never would have expected that #1, there are Roman ruins in Morocco, and #2, that she would take me to all of them. We went to Volubilis, Lixus and Sala Colonia to see the ruins and it blew my breath away. Not only were there people of all backgrounds and cultures there, touring the ruins next to us, but I couldn’t believe that amount of history that Morocco held. I learned more and more about this country which I quickly grew very fond of. A month went by too fast.
We, my friend and I, also were able to meet up with some friends of the family in Tangier who were going to go up to Spain. We tagged along with them and took a ferry over to the other country with buses getting us to the city of Grenada. I have never cried before looking at a landscape. I cried when I was riding through Spain, though, with the Mediterranean Sea on my right and the mountains on my left. We saw The Alhambra (a fortress and palace created by the Moors) with gorgeous gardens and architecture and we took a night stroll down the city streets to go find the best Spanish wine & gelato we could. No one spoke English and my Spanish was laughable, but it was perfect.
I think to summarize a little, I ended up trying new things, learning to say at least “I’m from America” and “Thank you” in Arabic and French, trying to communicate with locals by ways of smiles and waves and soaking up the culture and the emotions around me. I miss Morocco a lot. I would go back in a heartbeat.
It was not study abroad but I did learn a lot. I still think that study abroad is something that I wished I could have done. Not for the same reasons, though; I think that it serves a different purpose. I did not have to focus on studying and grades while I was traveling and I instead focus on the culture, the language and the people. I thought that my path was decided by me, but it wasn’t. It was all a string of happenstances with a lot of help from my aunt that led me to take the path less traveled. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more and I still don’t know how to thank her.
So, thank you to my family who let me stay with you, eat your food, ask you questions, journey with you and grow with you as we traveled together. I will never lose those memories. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to take that unforeseen path.
Sincerely, Emily Gallegos