All Insights

Inflating Pressures

byAaliyah Taylor
onJune 12, 2024

In the IMAGINE women’s workshop that we visited this week, the facilitators of the High Atlas Foundation used balloons to represent stress. This simple yet effective tool provided me with a tangible way to visualize and cope with the pressures of acclimating myself in Morocco. Balloons have always been a symbol of happiness and celebration, but having a new perspective of these objects was intriguing. Fill the balloon with too much air, it will pop. If the balloon doesn’t have enough air, it’s incomplete. I’m currently trying to navigate the fluctuations of my balloon and the way that it will carry me throughout my study abroad journey.

Arriving in Morocco was an enlightening, yet overwhelming experience. The initial days were filled with new surroundings, diverse people and honestly a new sense of freedom. It was much like the sensation of floating inside a balloon and seeing the world from a new perspective. However, the balloon of my stress began to inflate gradually. The culture shock was fascinating, as we navigated through the bustling souks of the Medina, understanding Darija and French and adjusting to a new way of life. Amidst the stress of it, there was a sense of adventure and excitement that came with exploring a country that I’ve always wanted to visit.

To prevent my balloon from bursting completely, I first attempted to establish some sense of stability like I would back at home. We’ve discussed the importance of structure and organization in one of our first classes and wanted to put that in practice. I started going on daily runs so that I’m still remaining active, I would always text my family group chat on What’s UP (inside joke), and Jhordawna would always play music in the morning to start the day that reminded me of the dynamic that my family has back in Connecticut. Little practices that we’ve implemented allowed me to slowly deflate my balloon and slowly let out the stress that tried to trickle back into my space.

One of the vital sources of stress was the process of making new friends with people I hardly know. Each attempt I made to connect with other people felt like another puff to my balloon. However, getting out of my comfort zone, making myself known and discovering the city of Marrakech together gradually eased the stress. Sharing our experiences at the University of Virginia and knowing that some of us have similar academic and career paths helped release some of the accumulated air in the balloons that all of us seemed to have.

Within my first week in Morocco, it has been such a rewarding yet stressful experience. Each facet of the day was brought with a thrill of adventure, yet also the anxiety of the unknown. I’m constantly adding and releasing air from my balloon. The metaphor provided from the workshop has provided a clear, visual representation of my stress levels, helping me understand when I need to take action to prevent overwhelming pressure. As I continue to navigate this new chapter, the lessons from this therapeutic tool remain invaluable. With that, I truly imagine myself for the next seven weeks now embracing the fluctuations of my balloons, knowing that each breath (inflating or deflating) is a part of the journey in experiencing a new country.