Featured Student: Alexis Strang
Imagine lying under the stars in the Moroccan desert, nothing but silence as your companion. Imagine walking the streets of Chefchaouen, a city marked by buildings painted innumerable shades of blue. Many people can only imagine, but for junior Alexis Strang, this summer the dream became a reality. This Global Studies and Anthropology double major who grew up in Concord, North Carolina always knew she wanted to travel. Thanks to help from Carolina, she was able to embark on nine weeks of study abroad in Fez, Morocco.
Strang was in the first grade on September 11, 2001 and was immediately bombarded with depictions of the Middle East that presented the region with a single narrative. She recognized that the media characterized all of these people as an enemy, as dangerous people who wanted to terrorize America. Seeking to understand more about that area of the world, she began taking Arabic in college and selected a $5,000 scholarship from Excel@Carolina earmarked for study abroad. With additional funding from the Michael L. and Matthew L. Boyatt Award through the Curriculum in Global Studies and the C.V. Starr International Scholarship through the Center for Global Initiatives, she was able to travel to Fez where she stayed with a local family and attended Arabic courses at the American Language Institute in Fez (ALIF). Although she never quite overcame her culture shock, Strang has no regrets about her trip. With newly discovered friends, an increasing command of the language, and the opportunity to experience first hand what she had studied at Carolina, she walked the souqs (open-air markets) and traveled the country.
Making the most of her time abroad, Strang and three friends traveled to Spain for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of taking part in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. Too consumed by adrenaline to be particularly scared during the actual running, it was after the event, when she watched videos, that she grasped the reality of risk involved. Would she do it again? Probably not. Having said that, Strang feels that it is better to regret what you have done than to regret never having done something.
Eager to share her experiences, Strang recorded sounds from her time in Morocco like taxi rides to and from school, walking through the souq, street music performances, and her homestay family laughing that she will compile in an audio recording where people can “hear” Morocco.
There were definite shortcomings to the abroad experience. It was a struggle to grapple with the repeated harassment of women in the street. Although a challenge, even that served to teach Strang about herself. From those experiences, she has become more conscious of how she reacts to others as well as to stressful situations. Having returned, she carries with her a new level of self-awareness. While she was happy to return to Carolina, she looks forward to her next voyage.
Now enrolled in Turkish, she hopes her next destination will be Turkey. There she will be able to utilize her language skills and implement what she is learning in the classroom. It is her dream to work with communities in a collaborative fashion, using the skills acquired in the United States to serve those abroad.