Introducing Fall 2018 Blog Correspondent: Jaycee Miller
Hello, all - my name is Jaycee Miller, and I am thrilled to be blogging about my experiences while I’m in Morocco with AMIDEAST this fall semester! Studying abroad has been on my to-do list long before I even knew where I would be going to college. For me, one of the most bizarre phenomenons of growing up has been bearing witness to the dreams I had in my youth coming to fruition. In that regard, for a long time I had an “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality, but as I write this from my Amtrak coach seat (this post is not sponsored by America’s passenger railway corporation) en route to the airport, the reality of the situation is setting in. I am brimming with excitement at the prospect of exploring the linguistic, cultural, and societal intricacies of Morocco while studying the subjects I love.
For the past 14 years, my home base has been Buffalo, New York, and it is where I now go to college as well. Originally, my family is from Salt Lake City, Utah, but we are dispersed all across the United States. I’ve ended up with family in every corner of America, from California, to Utah, to Hawaii, and New York. This paired with the traveling that my dad does for work, I’ve had the good fortune of a considerable amount of globe-trotting in my nearly 21 years. Some of my favorite things in life are eating brunch, the animated film Ratatouille, and being out in the sunshine. I’m a junior at University at Buffalo, where I study political science, French, and urban planning. A few student organizations of which I am a part are Model European Union and Organization of Arab Students. You may be thinking that it’s quite apparent that, well, I have no Arab heritage at all. You would be right! I’m about as Anglo-Saxon as they come (thanks, 23 and Me), but learning about and celebrating the culture has been so much fun, and the friendships I’ve made are worth their weight in gold. It was actually through friends I’ve made in OAS that I became more interested in studying abroad in Morocco. UB has a huge population of international students, and it became apparent to me that the nature of their entire collegiate experience was based in intercultural learning. I wanted in.
I considered Western Europe. I’ve studied French since the seventh grade, so studying in a francophone place felt... intuitive. I’ve been to France and Belgium, and I loved it. Brussels is my favorite city I’ve been to to-date, but in a study abroad experience I craved something a little different. I thought “If I’m going to be out of my comfort zone for an entire semester, I might as well try something more different from my own Westernized culture than France or Belgium,” but I wanted desperately to be able to practice French. In high school, I did a project about the effect of the French occupation in North Africa, which was my first exposure to Moroccan history. Upon considering it as a destination to study abroad, I quickly realized the value of studying in the MENA region for its rich and varied culture. I had to search high and low for a program in Morocco, and finding AMIDEAST was a dream-come-true, giving me the opportunity to study the Maghreb region (hello political science major) in French (hi French degree) while living in a metropolitan environment (hey urban planning minor). I’m eager to explore the intersections of my fields of study while in school in Rabat while discovering the other beautiful environments Morocco has to offer!
I am, easily put, nervous. As aforementioned, I’ve done my fair share of travel, but I the thought of adjusting my entire lifestyle while overcoming the language barrier (seven years of formal French education is only as useful as your confidence in speaking, plus I can’t speak a word of Arabic) is daunting. While saying my goodbyes to friends and family who were bursting with excitement on my behalf, I couldn’t help but feel anxious for life without them in a place I’ve never been with people I’ve never met. That combined with several days of travel-time, which I know to be tiring, I am a stew of mixed-emotions. All that said, I packed light, triple checked for my passport, and flew out the door at 6:00am this morning to catch my train, ready for the adventure of a lifetime.
A special thank you to my family and my friends, my amazing french teachers, Mrs. Brown and Professor Oliveira, my study abroad advisors and the entire AMIDEAST staff for helping me swing something I wasn’t even sure was possible until it now, because I can see it happening right in front of me. Next stop, Rabat!