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Taylor Kruse, Harvard University Part 2

07 May 2020

With a new understanding and confidence which I gained from my first TalkAbroad experience, I adventured into my next one. However, I still had a bit of the nervousness originally there. I found that even though I was sure my next partner, Mehdi Oudrhiri, would be as great as Salah, I had reservations about meeting someone different. I still entered my room early, waiting for Mehdi to respond.

It is worth mentioning that this conversation happened on March 11, one day after I was sent home from Harvard due to COVID-19. It goes without saying that this upset the natural flow of my studies, and I was worried about the future of this meeting. As evidence by this post, I was pleasantly surprised to see that TalkAbroad was still functioning as normal. In fact, I realized that this type of setup was perfect for the situation we are in – it relies only on the participation of you and your partner, and it can be done right from your home. I think this experience really exemplifies the advantages of using TalkAbroad: it can be done anywhere, anytime. It didn’t matter that my college had just shut down its campus for the semester, this program still gave me the same experience I would have otherwise been accustomed to.

Just like last time, my initial nervousness immediately melted away when the conversation started. Mehdi, like all my partners, made me immediately at ease through his calm dementor and attentiveness. As I stated in a previous post, our talks are guided by the themes we are taught in class, and this time it was about traditions and family. We immediately connected through our love for our families. I am someone who is lucky enough to be very close to mine, and I love spending all the time I do with them. Mehdi felt the same and taught me about how, in his culture, this was not abnormal. He discussed how, in Morocco, the idea of being connected with your family is very important and discussed some relationships that were really important to him. This made the conversation seem less academic and more personal.

I learned more about Moroccan culture through their clothing, including the traditional djellaba and caftan. As an American, it was incredibly intriguing to learn about things like this, as it is very different from my culture here in Maine.

Furthermore, a testament to this program would be its ability to reconnect. As stated before, due to COVID-19, I needed to do this at my home, which has extremely spotty internet. Therefore, numerous times my internet would cut in and out. However, just by reloading the screen I was able to reconnect with Mehdi, which was reassuring to know that I was able to easily get back on track.

My experience with Mehdi taught me how adaptive you can be using TalkAbroad. Your family kitchen can be just as effective as a classroom.