Being Black in an African Country

This blog post is courtesy of Enyonam Edoh, a senior studying Business Law with an International Business Certification, who attended the ISA: Arabic Studies, International Relations and Language in Meknes, Morocco for Summer 2018. She was a recipient of the ASU Study Abroad Office Travel Grant. She is a Fall 2018 Digital Marketing Intern for Arizona State University Study Abroad Office.

Spontaneous Decision

When I applied to study abroad in Morocco, it was completely unplanned. I had been dabbling between studying abroad in Europe or in Ghana or South Africa. When asking for different opinions before making my final decision, my advisor brought an interesting perspective. He told me that I would always have an opportunity to go to Europe, but how often can people say that they have been to other continents that people tend to overlook?

IMG_8280When I told my family and friends where I was going, they were completely surprised and constantly asked me why, but they eventually accepted and supported my decision.

Although I have never been to Africa, I was very familiar with West African culture because my parents are from that region and have ingrained in me my African identity. I grew up eating the typical Egusi soup with fufu, joll of rice, and fried plantains; listened to Afropop, and even learned a bit of French from speaking to relatives.

I wanted my first time in Africa to be blank slate, completely different from what I was used to, and what a better way than to study in a North African country. Going into it, I did not know much about Morocco, other than that it was a French speaking country, but I was very excited for my adventure to begin!

Destination Morocco

After 20+ hours of flying, I finally arrived in Casablanca, and it was mesmerizing! I could not believe that my dreams of studying abroad had become a reality and could not wait to explore and call this new place my home! The next several days was a blur, as we drove about two hours to Meknes where we were going to be residing for the duration of the trip. Everything happened so quickly and I loved every bit of it! I loved getting to eat crepes, roasted meats and vegetables, drinking refreshing fruit smoothies, and trying tangines and couscous, and sipping on mint tea. image6

Over there, I would normally spend the weekday attending classes, which was about a 10-minute walk from where I lived, but my weekends were made for adventures. I got to visit nine different cities including Asillah, which is a beautiful beach town overlooking the Atlantic with delicious seafood, and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, which is the known as “The Old City” and the largest economic hub in Morraco, and rode camels and camped under the stars in Merzouga, which is part of the Sahara Desert. At every step of the way, I was with individuals who ended up being great friends. One experience that made this study abroad program amazing was during Ramadan, a holy month of prayer for Muslims, where individuals usually fast from dawn until sunset. The aim of it is to bring individuals closer to God and remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. img_8277.jpgIftar, the meal Muslims eat at sunset, breaks the fast and the festivities begin. Where I lived, there was a small amusement park, and it was wonderful seeing how vibrant the city was, filled with people enjoying themselves with their loved ones.

Harsh Reality

Coming from the United States to live in a foreign country, most individuals typically complain about being singled out because they are American. However for me, it was because of my skin color, and I was often subjected to negative interactions with the people there. Morocco is a transit country with many Sub-Saharan Africans trying to make their way to Europe to make a better life for themselves. However, they are often ostracized and looked at negatively by locals.

Although I am from the West, individuals would automatically assume that I was from a Sub- Saharan country and treated me badly in comparison to my counterparts who were white. One experience I vividly remember was being called discriminatory words by a group of guys one day walking home, which completely threw me off-guard.

With the discrimination I experienced, I felt like an outsider and I was worried it would be impossible to fit in, make meaningful relationships, and have a wonderful experience. While in Morocco, I was hyper aware of my race, because it was always pointed out. Because of this, I isolated myself and tried to avoid negative interactions.  However, it always gets worse until it gets better.

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Don’t let it define your experiences

What a person does when they are down defines them. Despite going through this, I had so much support from my group leaders and friends and they helped me get through a difficult time. I no longer wanted to dwell in the negative experiences I faced, but rather move forward, thus changing my attitude toward the Moroccans I interacted with.

The moment I began to think positively, the more I embraced the culture, and as an effect, it transformed me in a good way. I started taking more risks and engaging more with individuals and made meaningful relationships. To continue to break the barrier, I started talking to my neighbors and locals on the street to practice my French, and the Arabic I learned, and made friends with local students. When I got lost in the city, individuals were so kind they went out of their way to help me and ensure that I got home safely.

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Breaking through barriers: not the last time I will visit Morocco

I enjoyed being challenged because I was able to grow so much in a short time. Not only did I feel transformed, but I also have more confidence in myself and my abilities. I want to continue to explore other places and taking in everything I learned and grow from it. When I finally reached acceptance and broke through the barriers I faced, I did not want to leave. I am confident that this will not be the last time I will visit Morocco.

For more information about how the ASU Study Abroad Office supports racial and ethnic minority students abroad, take a look at these resources.

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