An unforgettable experience while studying abroad

Studying abroad changed my outlooks and conceptions

More stories from Elizabeth Gosling


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Gosling studied abroad in France last semester and went to Morocco during spring break with her two friends from the U.S..

Some opportunities occur once in a lifetime.

Last semester, France claimed my heart and was my home over four months. I went there to complete my study abroad requirement because I am pursuing a degree in French Education and love the country. Past teachers raved of the opportunities they had in college and studying abroad was something they highly recommended.

Life can be seen as an experiment, and while I was in France, I measured how my perceptions changed. The variables involved figuring out how to live in a new country, improve my French and make new friends. Over my time there, my perspectives changed because of the people I met and places I traveled.

In particular, I believe I became more open-minded. I noticed how fast humans judge others at first glance. This is not a fair way to act and we could save ourselves so much trouble if we make a conscious effort to think of everyone as equals.

I learned this lesson while traveling with two friends to Morocco for a week and going on a desert tour over spring break. Besides getting the tour for a good deal, we were able to try sand boarding, sleep in the Sahara for one night and ride dromedaries (camels with one hump).

When I arrived in Morocco, located in Northwest Africa, my friends were already there and I needed to get a taxi to take me to my hostel. My flight came in while the sun was down but the weather was mild, even though it was in February. The taxi I would be taking was government-issued.

Amid my excitement, I knew I had to remain alert because of my white skin tone and the unknown/foreign culture. I went to Morocco in the second month of studying abroad, and arriving in a new country alone made me wary. French is also not my native language and I did not want to be taken advantage of while traveling, as so many people are. In some instances, American tourists are a target for pickpocketing.

Gratefully, I could speak to people I encountered in French, one of the official languages in Morocco. Arabic is the most common language spoken in the country and my driver spoke it in the car.

At that moment, I thought of racism. People can be afraid of others just because of a language. The way we are encultured has the potential to tie fear to language and skin colors. Especially in the last 15 years, people in the United States seem to target Arabs in particular because of terrorism.

Either it was my fear of being alone in a new country or hearing a new language, but for a while, I was scared.

I slowed down. I thought about my friends I would see soon and why I was there: to learn about Morocco’s cultures and have fun. My perspectives grew and at the end of the week, I was pleased to have visited a country in Africa.

Earlier in the year, a student speaking Arabic was thrown off a Southwest Airlines plane and the woman who reported him is predicted to have taken action because of Islamophobia. Living in a society that is closed minded and unaccepting of different languages is inexcusable and people such as this woman should not discriminate because of a language.

A close cousin of mine is also learning Arabic and I question: If she spoke it in a plane, would it elicit such acts?

Without much diversity in the Midwest population, people are not accustomed to hearing other languages or seeing other skin colors. Therefore, when they see people who have a different skin color or speak another language, fear could set in.

However, UW-Eau Claire’s Center of International Education helps prepare students for their experiences abroad and provides information about traveling and the importance of an open mind.

Eau Claire offers about 40 programs in 30 countries around the world and students are able to go abroad during winter, summer and fall or spring semesters.

To read more about my travels and studying abroad experiences, go to my studying abroad blog;