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Students Visit Morocco: Their Final Port of Call
Witten by student, Kailey Leinz, University of Virginia
A long line of Semester at Sea students stood in line at the dock, waiting to climb up the gangway onto the MV World Odyssey for the last time. Many students were brushing tears from their eyes. Their visit to Morocco—their semester-long voyage’s last port of call—was over, and all knew that the next time they got off the ship, they would never get on like this again.
The sadness that comes with the end of their 102-day long journey, for some, was mixed with a reluctance to leave Morocco. Student experiences in the country ranged from shopping in the Medina of Marrakech, to trekking camelback through the Sahara Desert, to visiting Chefchaoen, a city in the northern part of the country which is painted entirely in vibrant shades of blue. Many students dubbed Morocco their favorite port, and wanted to spend more time there.
“I was so sad to leave,” student Ruby Skotchdople said. “There’s so much to see, and I only got to spend like 12 hours in each city. I wish I could have stayed to see more. I’m going to have to go back someday.”
In addition the abundance of places to see and things to do, Morocco also exceeded students’ expectations in regard to safety. At SAS’s mandatory pre-port sessions, students were warned that sexual harassment was rampant in the country, and were given advice as to how to avoid and handle it. Personnel from the US State Department Consulate in Casablanca were also brought on board for a briefing before students disembarked the ship, and discussed issues ranging from street crime and pickpocketing to terrorism risks. The warnings left students fearful of what awaited them upon arrival, but many were surprised by the reality of their experience.
“After everything they told us, I was really nervous I wasn’t going to feel safe,” Skotchdople said. “I thought that I was going to be cat called every ten seconds. I mean, there were a few little harassments here and there, but it was nothing more than I’ve experienced in any other port. Overall, it felt incredibly safe,” she said.
What created this feeling of safety, student Callie McCall said, was the kindness of the people.
“I thought that everyone I met was super friendly and really cool,” she said. “They all seemed to be so excited that we were there and wanted us to feel welcome.”
The only thing that really degraded the experience, McCall noted, was knowing that final exams and the end of the voyage were waiting on the other side.
“I knew I had a lot of work to do for finals once we got back to the ship,” she said. “So I would be really enjoying myself, but then a wave of stress would hit me. It was hard to balance between enjoying my last port and having to do things for school.”
It will take the ship three days to get to Southampton, England, where students will disembark once and for all. Two of those days are for finals, with one last day for convocation, packing, and goodbyes.
“It’s like a tornado of emotions,” Skotchdople said. “I’m excited to go home and see my friends and family, but I’m so sad for it to be over. I know I’m going to go home and be like ‘Okay, when’s the ship going to meet me here? When do I get back on?’”