More Than Just a Trip Abroad

More Than Just a Trip Abroad

Annalise Bell

Morocco 2017

Annalise is a Kinesiology major at McDaniel College and a member of the Women’s Soccer team at the school. She graduates in 2021 and will be attending the University of Rhode Island to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

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

I grew up fortunate enough to travel a lot during my first fourteen years. It helps that my family is from Switzerland and we all have a passion for travel. However, until high school, I had only been to countries in Europe that are well-developed.

When I got to Morocco, it was a truly eye-opening experience. It was more than just a trip abroad; it was my first time visiting a country that was extremely different from where I grew up. I also had never done service during a trip abroad and what I experienced during this trip was life-changing. While it’s hard to pick one favorite thing about the trip, there were two moments that have stuck with me vividly.

The first of these moments was when we were helping paint a schoolhouse for a village in the Atlas Mountains. The schoolhouse was only two rooms and some space to play outside.

Each day when we got down there, there were always children playing. Soccer was the most popular thing for them to be playing. I have played soccer my whole life, so clearly this was exciting for me to see. While I enjoyed the experience of painting the schoolhouse, what I remember most of this part of the trip was playing with the kids.

There was a pretty large language barrier between the kids in the village and the group I was with, but we all knew how to play without a worry in the world. If you’re a soccer player you’ve probably heard the phrase that soccer is a universal language. It’s as cliché as cliché comes but it is so true.

In the moments that we were all kicking the ball around it did not matter what language we spoke, all that mattered was that we all loved playing soccer. We grew up so many miles apart but found commonality and peace running around, playing soccer, and laughing with our friends.

It made me realize that it doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you grew up, all you need is one common interest to form a bond so impactful that you will remember it for years to come.

The second moment that has stuck with me happened when we were in the Sahara Desert. After a sunset camel ride to our campsite, dinner, and some music around a fire, we woke up to watch the sunrise over the desert. I have never seen a sunrise so beautiful or felt so serene. In the silence with the wind blowing the sand gently against my skin, I was able to reflect on a couple aspects of my life. I remember thinking how grateful I am to have this experience and how I would cherish this trip forever.

However, this moment sticks with me because I realized something about myself that isn’t necessarily a weakness, but also not a strength. I realized that I was living my life to make everyone else happy. It wasn’t so much about wanting people to like me as much as it was that I just wanted everyone around me to be happy, even if it cost me my happiness. I always said yes to plans and things that I didn’t want to do and was bending over backwards to do everything for everyone else.

This moment in the Sahara helped me realize that it isn’t my job to make sure everyone was always happy; it’s my job to make sure that I am happy and sharing that happiness is an added benefit. Since that morning in the Sahara, I have approached life differently. I focus on the things that bring me joy and light, have found people to share that with and that I don’t have to work so hard to make happy.

While I cherish all the memories I made in Morocco, these are the lessons that have stuck with me and I think about every week. My views were forever changed by my experiences during my short time in Morocco and I wouldn’t trade my chance to go on that trip for anything.

Learn more about Rustic Pathways programs in Morocco, or view more Alumni Stories here