Crossing the Boundry into a New Culture


I have always loved to travel. From the time I was 7 years old and my family moved half way around the world to Nairobi, Kenya, I have enjoyed the experience of coming in contact with a life style completely different from my own. There is something deeply satisfying about getting out of your comfort zone and embracing and emerging yourself in completely new surroundings. Some of my best experiences and memories I have are from traveling, so when the opportunity to go on a trip to Spain and Morocco arose I knew I wanted to go. I have never been to a country with a culture quite like the one I am about to experience and am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the daily life in Morocco. While preparing for my trip this summer I read Scheherazade Goes West. I knew I would enjoy the book when on the first page it said, “To travel is the best way to learn and empower yourself” (Mernissi 1). This quote so elegantly summarized why traveling is such a deep and profound experience. When you are in a completely new culture and everything around you is unfamiliar you learn things about yourself. You come to realize just how much your home culture shapes who you are and how much of the world you do not understand and have not experienced. Not only do you learn about the culture you are immersed in but your own life and culture at home.  Mernissi knows from her own travel that you can learn a lot about your life by seeing how others live. While she is on her book tour she is able to make observations about how the west perceives harems and daily life in Morocco. While speaking with people from a variety of backgrounds she comes to realizations about her own culture and how every culture has their own personal harem.

Amidst the packing and excitement of preparing for a trip abroad I have also had time to get nervous and worry about what exactly I will encounter while in Spain and Morocco. The book makes clear the cultural gap between the Arab world and my own American world. While the idea of experiencing a culture completely different from my own excites me it also terrifies me. I know that I will not have the simple familiar things that I have at home. No Starbucks around the corner or the convenience of speaking the same language as everyone around me. So when I read Fatema Mernissis remark that “travel is not about fun but about learning, about crossing boundaries and mastering the fear of strangers, about making the effort to understand other cultures and thereby empowering yourself. Travel helps you figure out who you are and how your own culture controls you” (90), I was greatly encouraged. This quote reminded me that at times the trip will be hectic and exhausting; however, it is not all about having fun. While traveling I learn about the world and even myself. In those times that I feel completely overwhelmed and out of place I know that it is all part of the experience and of learning about and embracing a new culture. I greatly enjoyed how Mernissi talked about how much of one’s culture shapes how they view the World and while studying abroad I hope to be able to understand another cultures background and what makes them see the world the way they do. While Mernissi’s book was just a first step in my experience I believe it has helped prepare me for these next few weeks abroad.




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