Recently, some friends and I decided to visit Morocco for the weekend. From Madrid, we took a train to a bus to a boat to a bus. Traveling with a tourism company, our two days were filled with the stereotypical Moroccan experience we had anticipated. We rode camels on the beach and had our arms painted with henna tattoos. We ate lunch in a palace where a man danced with candles on his head and visited an old medicine shop where we bought bottles of Moroccan oil—“For shiny, shiny hair!” Or so, the vendor promised us. We strolled through the streets of a city painted entirely in blue, as if we were in some wacky Dr. Seuss book and we bartered in incense-scented shops. We obeyed our guides, drinking only bottled water, never leaving the hotels at night.

However, there was one experience that we had not anticipated—and I’m not referring to the relentless rain (it was the end of a long drought). The experience occurred the last day of our trip, as our bus was driving from the Moroccan border into Ceuta—an autonomous Spanish city from which we were to catch our ferry back to mainland Spain. Half asleep, I heard my friend next to me exclaim: “Two young boys just ran under the bus!” Still in the world of slumber, I wondered to myself, Is this a dream?

Then, somebody else yelled: “I just saw them, too!” 

My eyes shot open and I turned my body to peer out the window. I saw no little boys. Slowly, the bus began to snake its way along the road. Traffic was thick as we were in a long line of vehicles awaiting our turn with the customs guards. When we finally arrived on Spanish territory and continued our drive toward the port, I asked our guide why those boys had run under the bus.

"They're trying to cross the border because they can't afford visas. Once they get onto Spanish land they buy tickets for the ferry to Spain. Since they're small and there's lots of traffic, they think they can squeeze under the bus and move with it. Whenever we see the boys, we tell the customs guards because the driver is responsible if anything happens to them."

I asked him if young children frequently attempt to cross the border with the tour bus and he said yes. Every time he returns from a tour in Morocco, boys try to hide underneath the bus. I wondered what they would do if they made it to Spain. Would they go live with family? Fend for themselves, on the streets? 

"Many of the boys don't have family over there," the guide told me. "They simply wish to have better opportunities than they have here, in Morocco."

When I explained that I couldn't fathom how such young children could go off into the world alone, he simply said: "They've lived difficult lives—many of them already think like adults."

I was left speechless at that answer. I felt guilty about my recent complaints about an upcoming final of mine. In fact, I felt guilty about anything I had ever complained about. What right did I have to fuss over such trivial facets of my life when other people in the world—less than half my age—were willing to risk their lives simply for a shot at escaping a fate which they were born into? 

While the issue of immigration is far from foreign to me, it's one thing to hear about it in the news and quite another to transform into a front row witness of it. For this reason, the issue of illegal immigration will never revert back to a statistic and a pile of articles for me. Instead, I will forever have that day in Morocco cemented into my memory, with real faces to connect to the issue and two young boys' lives, which I know nothing about, to contemplate.

I thought about all the previous information I had read and heard about illegal immigrants via the news and could not help but remember the theory of the Narcotizing Dysfunction. The Narcotizing Dysfunction was created by the two sociologists Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton. In the theory, they discuss how people are so bombarded with information from the media that rather than become more engaged with the world, they become antipathetic towards the world's issues.

People read their daily paper or listen to their favorite news program and learn the latest happenings—including all the horrible incidents from which many of us are so far-removed. Initially, we may feel upset about what we learn—about wars, plane crashes, terrorist attacks—but ultimately, we continue living our lives. We close the newspaper, turn off the TV, and become de-sensitized to the tragedies of the world as we cook dinner, shower and get ready for bed.

This is not something we ought to blame ourselves for but it is something we should be cognizant of. It is also one of the reasons why it is so imperative that people travel, if given the chance. Perhaps this is why Duke University is so supportive of study abroad. It's too easy to think of semesters abroad as four months of pure fun, during which we visit a different country every weekend. But we must make a conscious effort—whether studying abroad or simply traveling—to remember that while visiting new places is entertaining, it's also a chance to add new perspective to our lives.

Katherine Berko is a Trinity junior studying abroad in Madrid. Her column, "how in the world," runs on alternate Thursdays.