Splash Media hosted an international journalist, Taha Amiar, for the past month as a part of the International Center for Journalists program and the U.S. State Department’s Professional Fellows Program. Taha came to us from his home country of Morocco, though he studied in France; he has also traveled extensively throughout Europe and North Africa.
The exchange program was beneficial for both parties as Taha learned digital and social media marketing while Splashers learned about a foreign culture and international business practices. Though we’re sad to see him go, we’re grateful for the experiences we had and the memories we made with our new friend. Before he jetted back to his side of the ocean, we sat down with him to hear his thoughts on his first trip to America and life in Texas.
What was your favorite experience in Texas?
“I attended the free Memorial Day symphony concert at the Myerson Symphony Hall and found it so impressive. The music was very good, but I was more moved by the people there and the support of the Americans. During the show, they stopped to recognize the different services – they called out the U.S. Army and the members in attendance stood up, and everyone clapped and cheered. The same thing for the Navy, Air Force, and more. I feel that there is equilibrium between the different bodies in the United States – a balance between the government, citizens, and armed forces. The appreciation of the American citizens in attendance was very special, and it is easy to understand why you are the strongest country in the world. I didn’t know the words to the national anthem, but I felt the strength of the support from the audience members and was almost moved to tears.”
We’re almost moved to tears after hearing that! It’s a refreshing reminder of the pride we should have in our country and patriotic spirit all Americans should embrace, regardless of political party.
What surprised you the most about Texas or America?
“The loneliness I felt on the street,” referencing how few pedestrians there are on the sidewalks in Dallas. “It was empty, even near busy areas like downtown.”
“I was also surprised by the lack of cowboy hats in Texas. Davy Crockett’s spirit is gone forever!”
Taha also mentioned he was surprised by “the strength of Hollywood as a soft power. Some things were very similar to the movies, such as bikers with Harley’s.”
Alright, down to business. What are some of the most important learnings you will take away from your time at Splash Media?
(Taha shakes his head) “Oh, too much! Every day with you was equivalent to a month of work and learning away from you. I would talk to someone at Splash and after just 20 minutes, my head would be spinning. Afterward, I would go home and do more research online – I was absolutely ignited.”
“Well, the way you work and the software you use to increase your productivity are very impressive. The apps you use and collaboration tools – such as Teamwork, Google docs and the drive – are helpful for corporations.”
— Taha Amiar (@taha_amiar) May 12, 2014
What skills or tools did you learn that you could use moving forward?
(Again, Taha shakes his head) “So many! I am more aware of specific tools now, especially the benefits of using social media as a person and as a brand. I learned Pinterest and how it is more than just decorating, cooking and fashion. Twitter is a great tool for talking to others and gaining competitive intelligence. LinkedIn is important for business. I am more aware of images now and how powerful they are. I also learned the value of SEO, blogging insights and WordPress and so much more.”
Taha went on to explain that he is a mid-level businessman in his career, and “now with these experiences I am more knowledgeable.”
“This month has fueled the fire for my learning and my career.” We’re glad to hear that, Taha!
How about the workplace and the environment – did anything surprise you?
“Oh yes, very much so. My work background is more official and formal because I was French-educated. I am impressed by the relaxed environment in your workplace – Splash is both fun and focused at the same time.”
“I also appreciated everyone’s sense of responsibility. Even the interns are very committed to their work and learning.” Taha mentioned his interaction with an intern whom he spoke with for a while and was impressed by his knowledge, and thought he was a full time employee. “I was blown away by his knowledge, and he was only an intern! I was shocked.”
“Overall, the human quality of the staff was priceless. I wasn’t expecting anything, but each counterpart gave the best of themselves.” He went on to say that he was touched by the kindness, friendliness, and willingness to help from Splash.
Let’s talk a little bit more about your experiences. What else did you do, see and learn?
“I really enjoyed the specific experiences I had and the moments I couldn’t live elsewhere.”
During his time in Dallas, Taha attended: the PGA Tour event – The Byron Nelson Championship, The Mesquite Championship Rodeo, the Memorial Day concert at the Myerson Symphony Center, the Allen Outlet mall (where he “bought enough clothes for three years and spent too much money”), the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Perot Museum of Science and Natural History, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Dallas aquarium, Klyde Warren Park, countless restaurants and cuisines and more.
“Though I normally prefer to spend money on experiences over food and drinks, I enjoyed sampling the local cuisine and of course, the American classics – Budweiser, Kentucky bourbon, and ‘damn good Texas beer’ Shiner.”
— Taha Amiar (@taha_amiar) June 1, 2014
Speaking of Texas…
“You really feel the strength of the culture here – I feel that some people don’t go outside of Texas. It’s cool to be a country in its own.” (Man, he sure learned about Texas pride quickly!) “People here are so proud to be Texans, it is a feeling that can’t be found elsewhere to the North.” You’ve got that right Taha!
He went on to say that he researched Texas and Dallas before his visit. “I learned that it started as a cattle story in the 19th century, and they were just trying to get a railway here … now it is an oil and tech hub for all the world. Dallas produces many high-ranking officials, national presidents and more. It is a very cosmopolitan city (though you do not walk anywhere). When you are here, you feel the force, you feel the movement.”
“In comparison to Europe, this is a ‘self-made man’ region. I feel that people here use their potential and then once they have accomplished something, they give back to their community. For example, big museums that are privately funded, like the Perot, don’t exist on the other side of the ocean. I believe that it is the completion of the American dream – you reach success, feel indebted to others, and give back to your community.”
Is there anything you think we should do differently based on your life across the pond?
“Eat more vegetables! And don’t drive everywhere – take public transportation or walk.”
— Taha Amiar (@taha_amiar) May 14, 2014
Was there anything that disappointed you in America?
“No. To be disappointed would be making a judgment. I wasn’t here to judge, just to learn and live.”
Well said, Taha, very impressive! You have a great attitude.
So, at the end of it all, you had a good experience? Will you come back to America?
“Of course, I would love to come back! I have to go back to Morocco to work, but hopefully I can return in the future.” (As a part of his program, Taha is required to go back and work in Morocco.)
That about wraps it up! Any last thoughts or parting words?
“I do not have the words to express everything; the experience still feels like a dream. The only thing I’m sure about is that it was a good thing.”
“I will miss you all, but with social media we can stay in touch. I know that I have a big family here in Texas – as you say, deep in the heart of Texas!”
This post is sponsored by Splash Media