Joanna Sun

Joanna Sun | Highland Park, IL — Economics, 2018

Joanna is a member of the class of 2018 in the School of Arts and Science. Joanna plans to major in Economics with minors in Chinese and Financial Economics. This summer Joanna will be going to Morocco through a service trip with the Office of Active Citizenship & Service to work with other cohorts in various local NGOs.

Blog Post One:

I’ve always struggled with understanding and accepting the concept of time. It’s ambiguity as well as inconsistency within our own perceptions often conflict with reality. And since arriving in Morocco four days ago, I can only say that Time is the weirdest concept.

I feel like it was just a couple hours ago that I by accidentally arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport 5 hours early for my flight to Paris and then Morocco. I can still remember the exact feeling sitting at gate L21: excitement for what I was about to embark, some boredom of just waiting, but mostly I was looking out the window and day dreaming about what to expect. And then in the midst of my imaginations, all of a sudden 5 hours had passed and my zone was being called.

My next leg was in Paris for 9 hours which was basically the same ordeal as in Chicago, except this time I was able to step out and visit the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, it was closed that day, but I still got a nice view and got tea and macaroons at a local corner café. I have to say that that was one of the most serene and movie-like experiences I’ve had so far.

After what seemed like forever, I finally arrived in Morocco at around 10pm and was greeted by a driver holding a paper with my name. Within a blink of the eye, it was the next day and I was on a tour walking around the center of Rabat. Everything was so beautiful and peaceful. Sure, there was the sounds of engines from the congested streets and construction of new infrastructures. But the vibe of the people was of peace and even with being surrounded by the background noises, everything seemed quiet.

The next big event was finally meeting my host family. That’s one moment I wish I could relive over and over again. I was so happy to meet my new “sister” and the more we conversed the more she surprised me. By that night, I was already feeling so comfortable in my new home and family. We all sat in the living room watching TV while conversing and every so often a cousin or aunt or neighbor would stop by to welcome us. It was all just perfect. The majority of my family speaks English except for my mom which has been super helpful especially navigating Rabat and cultural integration. But it does frustrate and sadden me that I can’t communicate well with my mom but through hugs and games of charades, I still feel very close and safe with her.

The last few days since starting working at Remess, an organization that strives on economic solidarity, has literally been a blur. I often lose conception of date and time, but time really does fly when you’re having fun. I look forward to every moment and every single interaction. Though it has only been four days, I feel like I have known my whole host family my whole life and have lived in Morocco for longer. Like I have said, Time is weird, but in this case it has been on my side and I only hope that it can maybe just slow down a little .

Blog Post Two:

A question that I have been getting quite frequently lately is, “What do you think you’ll miss most about Morocco?”

The obvious answers are the food or the people or the beautiful architecture but I don’t know if any of those are what I would miss MOST. I actually do not think I could answer that question until I returned back to America and realized what I miss. This is the sad reality of our existence, more often than not, we don’t realize what we have until it is gone.

Flashback to the day I hopped on the plane to Morocco. I knew that I was about to enter a whole new environment and there was going to be a lot of differences in culture as well. But after my first week in Morocco, it was the little things back in America that I began to miss, like the ease of showering or the feeling of safety walking alone at night. But the one thing I would say I miss the most is the schedule that Americans live on. The one where everyone goes to work by 9am and then lunch is around noon with most people heading home around 5pm for dinner. And then after dinner there are options for relaxation or going out for the night. But the majority of festivities in terms of shops being up is from 9am to 5pm.

Here in Morocco, since it is summer, most people will not wake up until 2pm and then have tea time around 7pm with shops popping up around 4pm. Dinner is served around 10 or 11pm and most people will not go to sleep until 3 or 4 am. It’s pretty much backwards and finding a place to eat before 3pm is near impossible.

Perhaps after returning back to America, I may actually miss Moroccan’s schedule. But unfortunately, I won’t figure it out until I have left and that’s what is making me sad. At the same time, the question above has made me be more aware and reflect on my surroundings in detail. For instance, as I am writing this, I am also enthralled by the unique detail and architecture of my room. There is no roof it’s just an open space where the sun shines in and the stars seep through. This is something that you would never be able to find in the States.



The previous paragraphs were all written about a week before leaving Morocco. But now that I have returned back to America, I have decided to reflect on my paragraphs as well as answer the first question.

Even though it has only been four days, it actually feels like I have been back in America for months. I have begun to forget some of the Darija that I picked up, the taste of couscous and Tajine, as well as the bustling lifestyle that I encompassed for the last 6 weeks. It saddens me that I am forgetting so easily, but luckily I am still keeping in touch with many of the life long friends I have made. I can’t remember every detail of every single day, but luckily I kept a journal and now reading those entries are what keeps the memories alive.

And to answer the question about what I miss most about Morocco, I think it is the person that I developed because of their culture and society.

I feel differently since returning to America; I feel as if I have to constantly be on the go and checking my watch, I feel more anxious and worried about the future. But while I was in Morocco, I felt that I had all the time in the world and carried on my days as I wished. I also felt like I lived more in the moment rather than looking into my past or anticipating the future.

I think that a lot of these changes have to do with my surroundings and each country’s societal pressures. In America, our achievements are measured by quantity and against each other. While in Morocco, goals and accomplishments are self-induced and self-motivated.

Thus, I hope that even though I am back in America, I can still encompass a little bit of Moroccan spirit.

My whole 6 weeks in Morocco may not be remembered by every second, but the important ones like visiting my boss’s hometown or sitting at work joking around with my coworkers will not be forgotten. Nor will the hardships such as fasting during Ramadan and disagreements with my host family. The good and the bad made the experience all worthwhile. And I like to think that I have left a little bit of myself in Morocco as well as taken a little bit of Morocco with me.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Janice Nichols says:

    Joanna, wonderful 2 hear about your experiences especially Paris. Ed and I won a trip and we explored everywhere. The host family sounds so nice and we are happy that you are learning about the people. Enjoy your time in Morocco.


  2. ed nichols says:

    Joanna, Thank you for your reflections after returning to America. You will forget some things of course but not everything. You will remember some things about your trip to Morocco for the rest of your life. And lessons that you learned there will be with you the rest of your life too. Ed


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