2019 Spring Amideast External Programs Gwen Jensen Morocco

Essays, Emails and Lists — Oh My!

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Class was starting and it was time to shut my laptop and start my day, but not without one more refresh. An hour and twenty minutes later, I shuffled through the teeming cinder block hallways, maneuvered my arms through a gush of lightly bundled peers, and slid my phone out of my pocket. Slide. Unlock. Refresh. For weeks, I repeated this agonizing ritual of checking my email, then checking my portal, then checking my email again, and of course refreshing each of them several times per sitting. Each tap, click, or login was met with the same rigid blue letters cutting across my screen — “Review in Process. No Decision Made.”


Tuesday. 10:00 P.M. Or maybe shortly after… time tends to get swallowed on nights like that night. A few of my floor mates and I stretched our various twisted cords from outlet to table, crafting an entangled wire nest. The web carefully maneuvered around ceramic mugs of tepid Keurig coffee for our nighttime homework conclave. Words are rarely exchanged; the lounge is a sacred place. It is a silent temple for procrastinators to seek redemption amidst an Everest of assignments. Refresh.

I didn’t scream, but I think the way my gasp cut through the sacred silence of midterm week in the lounge was somehow louder. “I got approved for Morocco,” I whispered in utter disbelief, half to myself, half to the other occupants of the lounge. Our weekday ritual was briefly interrupted as my friends offered knowing smiles, high fives, and almost inaudible murmurs of congratulations: the intermission was short-lived and delicately preserved the integrity of the space before we all returned to the vortex of our screens. But how could I focus on anything other than my impending journey?

The transfiguration of those blue letters brought a new cycle of refresh. It also ushered the conception of a new cycle: Wait. Send. Dial. Redial. Please leave a message after the— The weeks following my approval for study abroad in Morocco have been teeming with new requirements for forms, phone calls, emails, and essays. I have developed an affinity for mornings. I cling to these early, untapped, coffee-scented seconds, which offer more precious time for me to tackle my expanding to-do list before departure in January. My days are filled with preparations and excitement about the experience. I catch myself becoming giddy with anticipation as my Arabic professor leads the class in vocal exercises requiring us to imitate a spoon caught in the garbage disposal. I have pored over blogs from preceding Moroccan travelers, filling the lined margins of my class notes with reminders and even more to add to my to-do list.

Occasionally, as I retreat to the lounge to work, my excitement shifts to worry. A thousand unknowns flash across my mind. I find myself completely unable to fathom what awaits me next semester: the hypotheticals twist their webs and entangle my mind, not unlike the cords that created an entangled nest the night I received my acceptance into my program. However as my days become consumed with pre-departure tasks, I find the worries ease back into to comfortable excitement for the awaiting adventure, now only an ocean and a few essays away from reality.

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