SPRINGFIELD — The walls of the house where Nathan Carpenter was educated as a youngster didn’t limit his view of the world. He developed a truly global perspective.
Currently an Arabic major at Georgia Southern University, Carpenter, 26, is aiming for a career as a diplomat. He recently studied in Morocco with some of his classmates.
“I made the decision about three and a half years ago,” Carpenter said. “I’ve always been interested in that part of the world. It’s probably just because of the times I grew up in.”
Carpenter, an honor student who commutes from Guyton to Statesboro, said he was drifting through life somewhat aimlessly until Pastor Jeffrey Rollins of First Baptist Church of Springfield gave him some direction.
“He was a very good friend of mine,” Carpenter said. “We had many discussions over lunch about my future. I was sort of leaning into a path that was going to keep me here in Effingham (County) but I was really interested in traveling.
“He really encouraged me to pursue my education and to go out, see the word and make an impact.”
Ironically, it was Rollins’ surprising death in 2018 that spurred Carpenter into action.
“When he passed away suddenly, that rejogged our conversations in my head,” he said. “That’s why pushed me over the edge.”
Guyton was home-schooled by his parents, Wendy Wildes and David Karpowicz.
“My mom and dad poured a lot into me,” Carpenter said. “They stressed the importance of getting an education.”
Carpenter recently obtained a prestigious grant from the U.S. State Department that will help him achieve his education and career objectives. The Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship enabled him to pay for his first trip to Morocco.
“As part of that, (the U.S. State Department) does career placement assistance and helps you pick a graduate school,” he said. “I am looking at joining a program where they pay for your graduate school and you commit to work as a diplomat for five to ten years.
“That fits along with what I want to do anyway.”
Carpenter’s first international trip was to Costa Rica last year. He also went to Spain, Portugal and Morocco in 2018 and will head to Iceland in December.
Carpenter has a clear preference for the place that he wants to serve as a diplomat.
“I would like to go back to Morocco but I would also be happy anywhere in the Middle East or in North Africa — any of the Arab countries,” he said.
Arabic is one of three majors Carpenter is pursuing. The others are political science and international studies.
“To really understand a culture, you’ve got to be able
to speak their language,” he said. “I’m heading in that direction.”
Arabic isn’t the only language Carpenter is trying to master.
“I’m also learning Spanish,” he said. “Interestingly enough, I find the Arabic easier because it is so different. It’s a completely different alphabet, different set of grammatical rules and different structures.
“It’s a very slow language to learn but it’s fascinating. I’m still far from being fluent but I’ve learned enough that I could survive on the streets of Morocco.”
Most Moroccans — there are more than 35 million of them — are friendly to Americans, Carpenter said.
“Generally, they are super warm and super welcoming,” he explained. “Southern hospitality would find a good home there.”
Morocco is a predominantly Islamic nation with a strong monarch and elected parliament that respects individual rights.
“They are very prosperous compared to other nations in that region,” Carpenter said. “They are real secure. They are a staunch U.S. ally.
“They were actually the first country to recognize America as an independent state back in the 1700s.”
Carpenter said that young Moroccans tend to wear American-style attire while the older ones stick to garb traditionally associated with the region.
“To a certain extent, they embrace our culture better than we do — our clothes, our music,” he said. “McDonald’s is the cool, new thing in Morocco.”
Over the course of its history, Morocco was occupied by Spain, France and other countries.
“There are little pieces of other cultures there,” Carpenter said.
Morocco isn’t immune to some of America’s woes, Carpenter added.
“They had some problems with terrorism about the same time we did in the early 2000s but they really clamped down on that,” he said. “Like anywhere, there are some disagreements in politics. It’s like here because they aren’t unified all the time.”
Carpenter said Morocco boasts a diverse economy.
“They’ve got some oil, some natural resources,” he said. “A lot (of Morocco’s) success is because of where they are located. They are right south of Europe so they serve as sort of the bridge between the Americas, Europe and Africa.
“They’ve got some very large ports. They are sort of analogous to the Mexico of Europe. Lots of manufacturing has been shifted there because the labor is cheaper.”
Morocco — bordered by Spain to the north, Algeria to the east and Western Sahara to the south — is a beautiful country with a hodgepodge of geography. It has a coast on the Atlantic Ocean that stretches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. It also includes mountainous areas and the Sahara Desert.
“There are even places where it snows,” Carpenter said. “There are also areas that are forested very similar to here. There is about any climate you can think of.”
Carpenter, on track to graduate in the fall of 2021, isn’t sure what his area of diplomatic expertise will be.
“I haven’t made the decision yet,” he said. “I’m about fifty-fifty on the economic side and the human rights side. I’d like to increase the trade ties between our countries even though they are already very strong.
“It’s also good to advocate for our ideals in other countries.”
Carpenter, who works at the Mars Theatre, is certain of one thing. The global road is the right one for him.
“Every experience I have, every step I make down that path makes me want to do it even more,” he said.
Despite Carpenter’s affinity for Morocco and other countries, however, the U.S. will always rank No. 1 with him.
“I enjoy traveling and I would be fine living in another country for a couple of years,” he said, “but this will always be my home. When I step off the plane (at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport), I am always glad to be back.”