Alumni Spotlight: Genna McKenna

Genna is a Community Health Education major with minors in International Studies and Biology. She is originally from Chicago but made the pilgrimage north to study at Northern Michigan University. She loves the outdoors and is really looking forward to hammocking all over Michigan this summer.

What do you wish someone had told you before you went abroad?

At Chefchaoen

Genna: One thing I really regret was my decision making process when booking flights. I figured that if more layovers was the price to pay for saving a few hundred dollars than so be it. Don't think this way.

Traveling across the world is already exhausting and if something goes wrong during one of your layovers it is the most exhausting and emotionally draining days you will ever have. Being stranded in Paris is not fun when you can't leave the airport. Take better care of yourself and spring for as little layovers as possible.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

At Atlas Mountain

Genna: DO IT. Majority of my friends are very close to my age and do not have fully fledged careers, spouses, or children to worry about. There is no other time in your life when you can be so wonderfully selfish.

Your family and friends will still be here when you get back. You might miss a few momentous family occasions while you are gone, but that will only make you appreciate them even more when you return.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Genna: Studying abroad has given me a go to story whenever social interactions are taking a nose dive. In Islamic culture, you are expected to be very clean when you pray. So before people would go to the mosque on Fridays they used to go to the Hammam, or bath house. I've heard of Turkish baths, so why not a Moroccan one? When in Rome, right?

Me and my roommates, who were all in the program with me, decided to go to the Hammam after about one week of knowing each other. We were told to bring shampoo, a towel, and some henna paste. This paste you pick up at any small grocery store and is made from olives and henna. Then we walk down the street and enter a corridor off of the main road.

We are suddenly in a locker room type thing. We are told to strip down, and grab a big bucket and a little bucket. Then you walk into a huge shower room with faucets all along the wall. We are instructed to set our mats down on the floor and rinse off. Then we cover our bodies in the paste and help each other with our backs. I looked very Shrek-ish.

You let that sit on your skin for about 5-10 minutes and you rinse off again. Then you wait for an elderly naked women to beckon you over to here and you pretty much lay in her lap while she scrubs you down with this brillo pad/mitten thing. After about twenty minutes of slippery maneuvering and very close contact, you rinse off again.

Honestly my skin had never been so soft, and it was pretty refreshing to see so many women so comfortable with their bodies.

What made this experience unique and special?

Riding camels through the Sahara desert

Genna: I think what made my experience unique in regards to the other individuals in my program was that I didn't know any Spanish going into it. I saw it as a challenge and was excited to see where not knowing the language took me. I am a very independent person so I had to learn to rely on others to communicate with the local people.

Having to do this allowed me to create even stronger ties with the individuals in my program and pushed me to expedite my learning process. It also made interactions between me and the Spaniards I met very amusing to watch and hear!