Negina Perzad, participant in Legacy’s Arabic Language Institute program writes:
“The idea of waking up every morning in Marrakesh, Morocco continues to blow my mind. Many mornings I need to remind myself of where I am, why I am here, and I constantly feel the need to take the chance to just appreciate everything I have right now. With a powerful religion and a unique society, Morocco’s culture has opened my eyes to a place other than America and has really influenced the way I see and interpret things now, and hopefully will continue to do so once I return home.
Being at the six-month mark of my year abroad, I feel like the more Arabic I have learned, the wider the door to understanding Morocco and Moroccans has opened. I appreciate that NSLI-Y’s number one goal for us is to learn Arabic because it allows me to share some of my American-Afghan mindset with the people I run into. Coming here with absolutely no Arabic experience, I was never able to have the conversations I do now. I see that Moroccans usually see me in a more positive light when I try using the amount of Arabic I know, even if it’s far from perfect, and I feel as though their impression of Americans as a whole has been influenced just by a couple of minutes. Next to language, NSLI-Y and those involved with Legacy and the CLC here have taken a great initiative to expose our group to everything Morocco has to offer. I love that we live in Marrakesh, but have gotten the chance to explore the rest of the country. From the surreal Sahara Desert, to the refreshing Atlas Mountains, to the maze of Fez, to the unique North, to everywhere in between, I feel like I have a good understanding of the different cultures here that add up to everything Morocco is.
I came here wanting to learn Arabic in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of Islam. Most of the Qur’an’s credibility comes from it being the only holy book to have been preserved in its original text; therefore, Classical Arabic is the language of Islam. So I knew my questions would never fully be answered without me being able to understand the book’s authentic text. Many interactions with people like my host family, teachers at the CLC, and others have contributed to me seeing religion less as a chore and a lot more as a priority. I think the way I see Islam now has re-ordered my life and has shown me how it should really be. Many of the doubts or misinterpretations I had of the religion before have been more than clarified in the last six months. I now see that being a proud and practicing Muslim is possible, even today. I see religion as a sort of home base; something I can always come back to in order to escape from any stresses or issues or for any or no purpose at all. Yes, things will be a little different back in America than here, but I know I can do it now.
I see that this newfound religion allows me to see certain aspects, sometimes shocking ones, to the culture here in a new way. First arriving in Marrakesh back in September, when I saw the amount of poverty, the difference in gender roles compared to America, the cases of harassment on the streets and other things completely out of my realm, I didn’t know how to react. Now, I have grown to accept things that used to be appalling and I feel the need to help with other aspects that I used to try and ignore. I love that Morocco is so unlike the US, which makes me want to continue to be a part of global affairs and continue to understand cultures different from my own. This definitely contributed to my decision in double-majoring next year in both Journalism and International Affairs and possibly a minor in Religious Studies.
NSLI-Y and Morocco have taught me many lessons, the biggest being the importance of language. This scholarship in its entirety has opened me up to have a more global mindset and a love for new cultures. I see that being appreciative should be way up there, if not number one, on our life’s to-do list. I know I will carry and continue to possess the changes I see in myself today and I hope this scholarship will go on to impact others’ lives as it did and is continuing to do to mine.”
Read more from other participants in the Arabic Language Institute program.