The number of times that peopled have asked me that question throughout the semester…well its pretty high. There are tons of students from all three U.S. military academies studying abroad here at Al Akhawayn this semester—the majority are Army, but there are some squids and zoomies as well. In any case, I was fortunate enough to tag along with this bunch of go-getters to the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, for a day of officialness and ‘briefings’ on the general workings of the embassy. It was a great experience—we heard from USAID and Millennium Challenge workers, from military advisors and security forces, and even from the embassy’s PR wing (“it’s all about hip-hop and skateboards, man”). It was a trip designed for military personnel—so it really was fortuitous that I happened to know some Army kids well enough that I ended up coming along! We also got to eat at the “American Café” near the embassy grounds…what a good burger!
As it turns out, most of my good study abroad friends this semester come from one of the Academies. Their experience there is so incredibly different from my life at Haverford—it really is mind boggling. And many of them have very different political/economic/social/religious orientations than I do (indeed, different from anything that I’d find at Haverford really), which has made for many thought-provoking discussions (ok blood-thirsty arguments) ranging from serious topics to the most trivial of pursuits. For me, this was a seriously refreshing experience—breaking out of the liberal box every once and awhile is a must. But more importantly, I think that a bit of appreciation is well worth a paragraph here. I could not have been luckier to meet such a fantastic group of friends (they basically swept me up on the plane on the way over, so I’ve been guided from the beginning!). In class, hanging out, traveling across Morocco—these guys (and girls, of course) have looked out for me in a way that has really made my stay in Morocco more relaxed and in general enriching than it would have been otherwise. And hearing about their experiences at West Point/Colorado Springs/where’s Navy again? and their future plans has been a truly eye-opening and humbling experience. It really changes the way you think about things when you know personally some incredible people who are going to end up fighting for you in Afghanistan someday soon (whether you wanted to send them there or not!). They’ve also provided a funny connection to home, whether it was a great time at thanksgiving dinner or a good old American game of football. In fact, we’re playing again tomorrow before the Army-Navy game (GO ARMY!)—definitely looking forward to it.
In short, I have nothing but respect and thanks for those who choose to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Not only have they made my semester better in so many ways, but as a group they have shown me a sense of maturity, honor, and class that I truly admire. A few times this semester, I've heard a teacher or administrator say something like “you can always pick out the army kids”—in that case, being mistaken for a West Point cadet is probably one of the greatest indirect compliments I have ever received.