A Conversation Under The Stars

A Conversation Under The Stars

Emily Mae

Souqs and Service, Morocco 2018

Emily Mae is studying French at the University of Northern Iowa in the unique 2+2 program and will complete her degree at L’Université Franche-Comté in 2024.

All photos have been provided by Emily. Read her story below!


He explained to us his story on that one night under the clear Moroccan sky, a story of living in Morocco on royal decree after fleeing Palestine as a refugee.

We sat in a circle under the stars in the courtyard of the village Sheikh’s house; my new friends and I taking turns to tell their stories; a Jewish girl attending a Catholic school, a boy from Mexico, a small town girl from Iowa, and a pair of sisters from Georgia.

Our stories are what give us our personalities, but we find true meaning in them when we tell them.

I have had my fair share of successes and hardships, but the way I tell them has made me the person I am today. I have a passion for travel, community service, and foreign language, but I also have spent half my life in a peacefully divorced family, battling depression and anxiety, and persevering through bullying.

The things I have persevered and accomplished have shaped me into the person I portray. I find that listening to other people’s stories gives me a certain satisfaction that I don’t find through anything else. It broadens my horizons to infinitely more than the eye can see. I can’t walk up to a stranger on the street and know their story. Their body language and their clothes may show a small portion of their story, but the real story lies in their words.

In a society where face to face conversation is slowly fading away to a world full of texts, Instagram posts, and 280 characters, losing your sense of time telling stories gives you a chance to keep human conversation alive.

I return my story to that night under the stars, not a single cell phone, computer, or device in sight. I remember looking up at the stars and being amazed, I could see every single star in the sky, a perk of being several hours from any major city.

I thought about how a small group of fourteen students can have such vastly different stories; we symbolized fourteen stars in a galaxy of eight billion, no two sharing the same story. Each of those stars have a different story, as each of us tell a different story.

I love to travel because of the stories I hear from people all around the world. Spending a few hours in a foreign place surrounded with an assortment of people and perspectives from all walks of life talking about and listening to each other’s stories opens your eyes and hearts to appreciate and respect others.

From now on, every time I look up to the stars, instead of seeing little sparks of light in a vast abyss of our universe, I see each one as a person carrying a different story, and I think of that one conversation under the stars.

My trip with Rustic Pathways was something unforgettable that I will cherish forever. Though it was years ago it has changed the way I look at human conversation and the lives of people all across the world.

What did your Rustic trip teach you? Whether you traveled last year, or thirty years ago, we want to hear from you. Read more alumni stories here.