Tag Archives: Niger

“Change Your Attitude.”

23 Dec

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

-Maya Angelou

As I begin to put into words the events that have transpired over the past few months, I can’t seem to stop thinking: “What am I doing. I have become a *shudder* ‘blogger.'”

I could blame my French Professor for asking me to set one up. I could blame family, friends, but the honest truth is that I really do want to share this experience with anyone who wants to read about it. If the adventure that has led me to this current juncture in time is any indication, the next few months will definitely be worth chronicling here.

9 months ago a series of events led me to set a stubborn personal goal. I was going to spend a semester abroad, and nothing was going to stand in the way of me doing so. Little did I know at the time that fate was going to take that statement as a challenge.

After settling into my third semester at Boston University, and the 5th of my college career, I began immediately to set the gears in motion. I had my heart set on BU’s Program in Niamey, Niger. After a month of procrastination, hmming and hawing, and complaining about how I hate writing “personal essays,” my application was submitted, and the wait began. In the middle of October, I got my acceptance, confirming that I was going to Niamey (or so I thought). I then began the process of attempting to pull myself away from the very school and people who had stolen my heart just a short time before. Needless to say, I didn’t succeed, but then again it was foolish for me to even try. So, instead, I set my sights on the more attainable  goal of getting ready for the longest trip of my short life.

Little did I know that the hardest decision still lay ahead. I got up early on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, ready to make some last minute edits to a paper due that afternoon.  I rolled out of bed, pulled up my email, and read the news I had received. “If there is no change in the (U.S State Department) Travel Alert for Niger, or if the situation worsens at all, we will be forced to take the unprecedented step of suspending the Niger program for next semester.” The edits didn’t get done as quickly as I would have liked that morning. The phrase “knocked senseless” is the only term I feel explains how I felt at that moment. I panicked, threw on the brakes, and spent the next hour trying to reverse everything I had done for the past two months to prepare for Niger. I canceled travel clinic appointments, froze my search for a sublettor, and started looking at classes. It was a knee-jerk reaction, and an ill-advised move looking back., but at the time, it didn’t really matter; I was just groping for something, anything that could be considered a “Plan B.”

Okay, freakout over. Take a step back, look at the situation, and think logically. Nothing was getting in my way; including Al-Qaeda (they were responsible for the Travel Alert). If I didn’t find a plan B overseas, I was going to regret it for the rest of my life, and I knew it. So I looked into the BU Morocco program, but my desires refused to mold around it. Learn Arabic. “But I’m studying French idiot.” Learn about Islam. “I study Sub-Saharan Africa, not the Middle East.” Go to Morocco. “But, everyone calls it the fake Arab world. Am I worth my salt if I go to a cushy ‘European’ country?”

Then, something incredible happened. Islam- There is a large Muslim population in many Sub-Saharan African nations. Arabic- The language of Islam. Morocco- The perfect place to understand the aforementioned. I managed to morph my academic goals to fit the new spring semester I was faced with. Visions of Fulbrights, Independent Work for Distinction, and the Peace Corps began to dance in my head, and I felt the swell that I had first felt when I decided on Niger those many months before. This was going to be a good semester.

The plane hasn’t even left, and already I have found myself struggling with my academic goals, the location of my studies, and coming to terms with the things I knew I had to leave behind. I know this semester will not be easy, but, then again, I can’t recall the last time something worth having was easy.

I will use Arabic phrases to close all of my posts. I’ve only got one at the moment, the extent of my Arabic knowledge:

“As-Salāmu `Alaykum” (Hello, more literally, “Peace be Upon You”)