Adventures in Morocco

Elizabeth Cochran ’19“Go out and adventure my friends,” advised Elizabeth Cochran ’19 in a blog recounting her spring semester in Morocco. The psychology major received a prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State to study in Meknes, a historic imperial city on the country’s north-central coast. She is McKendree’s fifth Gilman Scholar.

Elizabeth had never flown until she set out for North Africa. On arrival, she experienced the frustrations and difficulties of a newcomer in an unfamiliar culture—but also delighted in sightseeing, trying new foods and making friends. With a positive attitude, she was soon navigating the local outdoor marketplace, practicing French and Arabic, and overcoming the language barrier with gestures and body language.

She took courses at the Arabic Study Center in Meknes and volunteered at A Smile Center, which provides services and education for single mothers and their children. Elizabeth eventually saw the impact she had made. “I saw progress in the kids as they [began] to write. I taught them colors, pronouns, some songs, and it touched my heart. They started to learn and I saw that what I was doing was helping them,” she wrote. “Learning from these women and serving at this organization really opened my eyes to different perspectives and the meaning of community.

“My experiences with a new language, cultural immersion, new perspectives, fears of trying new things, and adapting are all a part of the process when being in a new environment. You can choose to adapt, learn more about the situation, and view it in a more positive mindset. This is what enhances growth and helps gain new insights about life, others, and yourself. I have learned to laugh at myself and just enjoy the process of struggling or the unknown.”

In November, Elizabeth will begin teaching English for a year at TFU Language School in Bangkok, Thailand.