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World, I Am Ready. Are You?

11 March 2011 9 Comments

Yasmine El Baggari

Yasmine El Baggari
Morocco

What does America look like through the eyes of a young woman from an Arab country?

Yasmine — a 17-year old Moroccan girl spending one year in high school in Kansas — shares her view.

***

As a 10-year-old girl watching American movies in Morocco, I screamed with excitement at the huge buildings, the yellow cabs, the lights, and New York City. I said my dream aloud to myself, and felt something deep within stir. Five years later, the honor I had won to travel to San Francisco to immerse myself in the language was immensely satisfying. Left alone at the age of 15 to discover the great unknown, I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean and set again a few hours later. As the plane was landing, I entered a dreamland realized.

Here I was in the yellow cab, moved almost to tears when I saw the lights, the big buildings, in a closer look. The Golden Gate Bridge represented the connection to my future, and the feeling of opportunities and possibilities. I remember reciting “Here I am, I made it” to myself. I was not just an ordinary tourist, but a true traveler who had been charmed by the warmth of California’s beaches, the beauty of colleges, and the feeling of belonging.

This language has become my third language, and lets me connect with people in a movie theater, in a People to People conference, or in a Starbucks cafe. I have come to understand the importance of speaking with people in their own language when visiting other countries. Looking through different windows, I came to understand how much beauty the world can hold, and how great opening your mind to different cultures can be.

The fear and anxiety parents feel allowing their newly graduated daughters to leave the country is enormous in Morocco. The distress can stem from almost anywhere, from merely misleading thoughts or from deep-rooted stereotypes. Either way, certain parents crush the hopes of teenage girls trying to pursue their higher education outside the country unless they are married or under a brother’s supervision.

Boys have a better chance to study outside Morocco. Girls under the age of 22 are discouraged by most parents’ lack of vision and inability to grasp the importance of a solid education abroad. Perplexed by their daughters’ motivation, parents frequently respond by enumerating the potential pitfalls: straying from good values, being perceived as vulnerable, being harassed by men, and encountering cultural clash and loneliness. Tragically, girls seem to accept their fate, appear less motivated, and consequently aspire for less.

Stereotypical traditional values of women staying in their home-land serve only the purposes of the past. It is now time for women to disregard societal resistance to move forward into the 21st century.

As a 17-year-old high school graduate, setting a goal and working diligently, I convinced my parents, ignored people’s objections and prepared myself for a gap year abroad in the United States. After several months in Kansas, living in a diverse and productive environment, I have adjusted steadily to changes. I have never felt threatened, harassed, or misjudged. I observe American cultural norms while I keep and share my core values. Most importantly, I can inspire Moroccan girls and positively influence them to consider exciting non-traditional paths.

With big goals and even higher ambitions, I vowed that someday I would step on America’s soil to do great things, and here I am, in Midwest America, Kansas, finally experiencing an American high school during my gap year, having the advantages of learning, discovering and sharing; stretching my abilities as a French tutor for American students in fourth hour; having the chance to participate in constructive discussions in lunch period; and enjoying the freedom to enroll in rigorous and challenging courses. My experiences in Kansas are extraordinary. I feel thrilled when my classmates learn how to say basic expressions in French or Arabic, I am delighted to show others that Morocco is in Africa and share my foreign culture in various classes. I am also fortunate to have great hosts. They have allowed me to be the older sister to four amazing kids who help me everyday to be a more mature individual. They, along with my new American friends, have helped me to care more deeply about the needs of other people from other religions, cultures, and backgrounds, to be more socially aware, and to face new challenges every day.

I received a scholarship to attend a People to People conference in Atlanta in November 2010, which proved an eye-opening and life-changing opportunity. The experience of volunteering with students from all over the world at Med Share, an organization that delivers surplus medical supplies to hospitals in other nations, the lengthy discussion of health issues with other delegates, and representing my country, Morocco, at the International Student Panel, I gained an immense perspective. The opportunity to interact with highly motivated, like-minded students brought together in such a forum was exceptional. People to People’s sense of cultural progress, volunteerism and positive development opened my eyes, I have learned so much and now I am willing to give even more. A place that encourages such spirit and endorses acceptance between individuals matches my thinking and my interests. As an exchange student in America learning about the similarities and differences among people around the world, I intend to bring a new background and a unique perspective. I intend to develop from a child to an adult, to get ready to engage the world and achieve my vision of making a difference.

World, I am ready for you. Are you ready for me?

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9 Comments to “World, I Am Ready. Are You?”
  1. Brooks says:

    Yazzzzzzz ur the best

  2. Don Marsolek says:

    Very well spoken, Yasmine. May you always be an inspiration to others. I look for great accomplishments from you,

  3. Imad Youbi Idrissi says:

    Keep up the great work. I hope you’ll always give a good image of our country.

  4. El Baggari Med says:

    I read your paper with great pleasure. Now, I can see that my lovely daughter is on the right way to accomplish her dreams, just go ahead! you are a part of this world and you have to participate to make it better.

    Dad

  5. Daoud Bourvic says:

    REPRESENT MOROCCO YASMIN, PROUD OF YA

  6. Ahmed Elbaggari says:

    Congratulations Yasmine. Good work!! Do you have a blog yet? Others will learn from your dreams and achievements. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Nadia Berday says:

    Hi Darling, Congratulations for the very interesting topic you covered. The cultural exchange is a source of richness and understanding between nations all over the world that strengthens human relationships between people of different cultures and religions. And I am so happy you are experiencing the American life with a very large open mindedness that allowed you to win the attention of wonderful American people.

    Love, Mom

  8. Ilie Roibu says:

    Hi Yasmine,
    This is Ilie from Moldova.
    It was a great pleasure meeting you at Olga’s house with Barb Capozzi and our common friends. Shweta Shrestha from Nepal, you also met at that party – shared this article with me.
    I really enjoyed your article and how inspired you are to make a change. You are very much on the right track and keep on the compassionate drive you have of making a difference in people’s lives.
    I encourage you to apply to 100 universities worldwide, [as i did :) ...], and I guarantee you that more than half will accept you, several will give you scholarships, and at least one will give you a full scholarship.

    You are very talented, and the world is ready for you.
    All the best,

    Ilie

  9. patricia smith says:

    Yasmine,

    I SO enjoyed reading your article. And the supportive comments of others, including your mother and father. Your courage and vision are needed in the world. Continue to make your dreams real, so others may follow!

    patricia

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