Imagine moving from a city of nearly 2 million people to a town of just 300, half a world away from your friends and family.
While it seems rather intimidating, this is just what Lynnville-Sully senior Nahla Lakouait did just two months ago after leaving Morocco for a year-long study abroad program in August.
“I’m really glad to be here,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting Iowa to be that fun, but the people here all are really nice and friendly.”
Despite the culture shock that one might expect, Lakouait was pleasantly surprised with the differences she found in her new, rural home.
“I was surprised but in a good way,” she said. “I thought living in a small city would be really boring, so I was really not looking forward to it. Since I’ve come here I’ve found a lot of fun stuff to do.”
Lakouait was born in Buenos Aires and, after spending time everywhere from Spain to Italy, moved to Morocco’s capital city of Rabat with her family.
She traveled to the U.S. for the first time via WorldLink Education Inc., which placed her with a host family in Lynnville — an aspect of the program that stood to help her transition into American high school.
“My first day was stressful, I almost didn’t sleep,” Lakouait said. “I had met a bunch of people before, but I didn’t know where to go (for my classes). I have a host sister, though, so that helped.”
While Lakouait’s school back home in Morocco operates similarly to an American curriculum, one aspect makes all the difference for her at Lynnville-Sully.
“Here I feel like we have a lot less pressure, and I like it a lot,” she said. “I wish I would have been in this system the whole time!”
Just as Lakouait’s impression of Iowa was different than she had anticipated, her classmates’ idea of Morocco was slightly skewed as well.
“Pretty much nobody here knows where Morocco is,” she said with a laugh. “Some of them are like, how is it in South America?”
Lakouait has since made presentations in her classes to help her peers better understand Moroccan culture and help answer the questions, “mainly about my home and school and what we do for fun back home,” that they posed to her.
While Lakouait still has 10 months before she’ll return home to Morocco, thus far she’s come to enjoy things that Iowans frequently take for granted.
“It only gets down to about 60 (degrees) when it gets really cold in Morocco, but I like snow,” she said. “I’m looking forward to winter.”
Perhaps most fitting, however, was her reaction to the cuisine she’s encountered during her first couple months in the rural Midwest.
“Food here is a lot different from traditional Moroccan food, but I’ve discovered lots of things made of corn here that I really like,” Lakouait said with a laugh.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.