Ruins & amp; Reflections

This past weekend I joined an anthropology class in a field trip to the ruins of Volubilis, a Roman-occupied city inhabited by native Moroccans that is at least 2000 years old. The ruins were amazing, and we got a good feel for how people used to live; the largest houses were something out of a Hollywood movie, with giant courtyards and fountains. Among the residences, a Roman bath house, triumphal arch, forum, and basilica still stand today. After the ruins we ate lunch in Moulay Idriss, the nearest town which is built into the mountains lining the valley. It is not so dissimilar to Chefchaouen, except is only an hour away, so some of us were thinking about spending the weekend there for hiking and camping. It’s by far the least touristy city I’ve seen in Morocco.

It’s now week five of the semester; I’m used to calling this the halfway point of my classes, but we’ve got ten more weeks to go in this semester system. Our first major exam took place in Arabic; some reading aloud, vocabulary, and dictation. I’ve started working on research for my term paper in Sub-Saharan African History, and French is progressing well with the help of native speakers outside of class. All told, academically, this semester has been great in many ways, but disappointing in others. My predictions about the pace of the courses has, thus far, panned out accurately. The pace of both language classes is slow and steady; our professor today told us that we might learn the past tense in French by the end of the semester, if we have time. I haven’t taken language classes for a while, but 15 weeks seems like an inordinate amount of time to learn a language and not know how to use the past tense. My two history classes are more taxing, and they will continue to require the majority of my attention because I have my term paper as well as three in-class presentations after spring break.

With a third of my time at school here over, I’ve had ups and downs just like I would at home. As a study abroad student, orientations drill into your head the curve of emotions you will experience. Immediate elation upon arriving into the new environment; coming down off of that high and feeling homesick or out of place; acclimation to the local culture. I can say that I was skeptical at first, but I know that I in fact experienced all stages of this already. Almost a month into being in Morocco, I was struck with a general malaise which was accentuated whenever I saw emails from home or went on Facebook. I came to realize this was me, feeling homesick and having some issues with separation with the only home I’d known for 21 years. The slump lasted about two weeks, and traveling on the weekends during that time definitely helped. Now I feel much better and I am used to the day-to-day like it’s always been this way. The final stage of the emotional roller coaster is said to be reverse culture shock upon returning to one’s home country; luckily, I have quite a while until I experience that!

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