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A Different Gap Year Experience
By Sophie A., Virtual YES Abroad 2020-2021, Morocco
So, my gap year turned out a little differently than expected. When I received my acceptance into the Moroccan program, of course I anticipated challenges. Rather than battling culture shock and language barriers, my cohort now tackles poor zoom connections, conflicts with virtual school, and Moroccan Arabic (or Darija) quizlets.
Nonetheless, cohort and teachers alike have managed to connect across time zones, screens and oceans. My culture and language partner, Nourhane, and I bond over my silly Darija mistakes and her aesthetic powerpoint presentations. As a group, we have pioneered the brand-new field of zoom cooking and produced Beghir, a Moroccan pancake, as well as the iconic Tagine. In our WhatsApp group chat, we share Darija resources and compile new words into an unwieldy and constantly expanding spreadsheet. While we open windows into a country halfway across the world, we also get a chance to get to know each other. The three of us are dispersed between California, Vermont, and Indiana. Throughout our lessons, we have learned about each other’s hometowns, friends, and families.
Last February, I could never have anticipated how my experience has played out. The lessons provide a welcome respite from the isolation of quarantine. Learning about a new and wonderful culture and language, even from afar, has created a sense of exploration and friendship in an otherwise difficult time. While I hope to travel to Morocco sometime in the future, I have loved having the opportunity to participate virtually.