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By Alia Razid

First things first, presentation time! Well, briefly, my name is Alia and I am a Moroccan exchange student from Al Akhawayn University. This is my first time in the U.S and I can say that the culture shock I was expecting didn’t really happen, or at least not as strongly as I expected it to be. If you are wondering why, read on!

Let’s start with some historical context: Morocco gained its independence from the French protectorate in 1956, but it is still very influenced by France. French is recognized as a national language and is taught in schools starting in kindergarten. Morocco is therefore very influenced by European culture. Growing up, I was exposed to other cultures, especially the American culture, from the movies/series I watched, books I read, people I met, and YouTubers I followed. Talking about Youtube, it is becoming more and more popular in Morocco to make YouTube videos (podcasts, vlogs, vines…), which shows how technology is connecting the world and making Moroccans go from the casual Youtube watcher (like me :p) to actually creating their own videos. After coming to Willamette, I have been asked one question several times about dress code: “Back in Morocco, are you allowed to wear what you are usually wearing here?” and my answer is “YES!” As I stated earlier, Morocco is so to speak multicultural. However, what I noticed after coming here is that sometimes, what I normally wear in Morocco, can be perceived as ‘overdressed’ in a way, or at least that’s how I feel sometimes. Back home, people are stressed to be ‘put together’: matching colors, avoiding wearing sweatpants to class, no flip flops, and stuff like that. Here, I feel like no one really cares about what you’re wearing, which feels AMAZING (except of course if I go out wearing the Moroccan traditional dress which is way too formal). Even if Morocco is influenced by other cultures, it still has its own traditions. Typically, on special occasions like a wedding or a religious ceremony, we tend to wear traditional Moroccan clothes, which most of the time are custom-made. This makes Morocco a mix of tradition and modernity.

Coming to Willamette taught me how different our cultures are, but also how similar they can be. Books, movies, and Youtube, as well as other platforms, create an international space, where tolerance is growing faster than you think, where cultures are discovered and mixed, where values are shared, and where points of view are shaped. I think that having an international experience is nurturing oneself and developing one’s ideas about life in all its aspects. So get out of your comfort zone and go on a new adventure whenever you get the chance to!

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