This entry features a submission by former AMIDEAST Education Abroad student, Everest Robinson. Everest participated in the AMIDEAST Morocco Regional Studies in French program during the Fall 2015 term. From Macalester College in Minnesota, Everest is a student of Psychology and Religious Studies. We hope you enjoy his reflection on his experience in Morocco!
It’s very hard to sum up four months of my life in Morocco, to extract a single lesson or even a single story. There are so many stories so many ways that my life has been altered by Morocco.
The place I would start with to describe my time in Morocco is not a location or an experience, but the people, for people always make a place. The people of Morocco have taught me so much. As a tourist, I sometimes found myself in situations where it would’ve been very easy to take advantage of me. However, this rarely happened. By and large, Moroccan people were not only helpful but they went above and beyond just extending courtesy and aid; they treated me as a family member and showed genuine interest and investment in my well-being. In a similar vein, I noticed community solidarity every day whether it was four people jumping at the chance to help a mother get her stroller on the bus or a stranger watching someone’s kids as the parents went into a shop. I will never forget this community solidarity which has become a part of my identity, and I will never forget that many times I was vulnerable in an unfamiliar place where if not for the assistance of strangers I could’ve encountered trouble.
Buying a rug from villagers on the Zawiya Ahansal excursion.
Overall, I found my experience abroad to be simultaneously challenging and illuminating. During my time abroad, I was forced to use muscles that I had rarely used before. I confronted myself just as much I confronted the socio-cultural obstacles. In general, I tend to be more of a follower/people-pleaser. I rarely drive the plans or the conversation within a social group. When I stay at someone’s house I try to be invisible and rarely express my needs. While I was abroad, I learned very quickly that they are times when it is necessary to advocate for yourself and be assertive. I could’ve let the semester move along with my various discomforts and had regrets at the end, but instead I learned to confront people with my desires and I even made a trip by myself to Chefchaouen when no one wanted to go the particular weekend I had available. There were so many experiences that became available with me at the small price of asserting myself. Because of this perspective-shift I was able to leave Morocco with zero regrets and with an increased ability to assert myself which is quite a useful skill to have in adulthood.
Another hugely important thing I take with me back to the states is an increased awareness of the global community. By going to Morocco I was exposed to viewpoints that simply aren’t available in the United States in my upper-class liberal arts bubble. I learned far more about Islam than I could’ve learned in any textbook or web search. Greater than the French I learned was the shockingly simple revelation that other people use all sorts of languages all around the world and that this language in turn influences their perceptions. Furthermore, many things cannot be translated into words. I learned a great deal about wealth disparity from living with a middle class Moroccan family and teaching English to refugees from many Sub-Saharan nations. Finally, I learned that there are so many different ways to live life on planet earth in community and that although I may be more comfortable living one way, that does not mean that the others are less correct on a universal level. After being abroad, I feel a greater connection to the global community.
I can’t put a price or any sort of measure on what my semester abroad has meant to me. It is invaluable. It is part of me. It has shaped me irreversibly. I strongly believe this opportunity should exist for every person on this wonderful planet, and I’m immensely grateful to have had this opportunity.
This entry was shared by Sarah Donaldson, a participant on AMIDEAST’s Fall 2015 Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Rabat, Morocco. Sarah, a student of Political Science at the University of Kentucky, shares the highlights of her semester experience in Morocco.
Within our first week in Morocco, we were welcomed with the Rabat Challenge. After a few days of being shown around the city for orientation week and what not, it was time to put what we learned to the lest. We were required to find everyday things that we would need like ATMs, places to get food, Hannuts (little stores) and certain buildings around AMIDEAST and near the areas our host families lived, the place that we would soon call home for the next 4 months, as well as navigate the medina the best way that we could. It is funny looking back and remembering how much we struggled on this challenge. First of all, we went to the wrong train station, and then we thought we made it to the medina and it turned out that we were far from the old city. I’m sure the cabs we took all were about double the cost of what they should have been and we were still strangers to each other at this point so it was just overall very awkward. We were just so new and clueless and looking back on this adventure shows us just how far we came in our experience studying abroad. I loved this experience because it gave us some independence and a task of navigating through the city in a more relaxing mindset. This challenge also brought me close to the two people that I would later call some of my best friends. Now at the end of this program, I can confidently say that I can easy accomplish this challenge in half of the time they gave us to complete it.
Zawayat Ahnsal was easily the most important excursion that we took while on this program. Before leaving for this small village in Morocco, everyone was concerned; no one had heard of it and it sounded like there was not a lot to do, and everyone wanted to spend there week doing something “more fun”. Then what happened was we came and taught some of the most adorable, most intelligent kids English who were so driven to learn. We had dinner at the Sheikh’s house, with traditional music where the whole town came and sung and danced with us. The girls were given Jlabbas to wear during the celebration and they offered food and tea and woman were there to give everyone henna. To everyone’s surprise we had the most fun on this excursion than any other. We got to see the most breath-taking views of the village and we really got to connect with individuals there in ways that you can’t do when you are in a big city. The reason why this was so important is because a lot of Morocco is made up of small villages like this one and we got to see and experience a huge part of Moroccan culture that we would not have seen or known about if we continued to visit the big popular cities that we all planned to see.
It would be a disservice to write this piece and not include a picture of my host family. It was great because no matter what they always tried to be engaging with us and really invited us into their home. It was good to be with a host family like this because it forced us to learn and use the language and they also got to show us their culture. There is something to be said for getting to experience a culture first hand and it is an experience that I wouldn’t have gotten with out this family. They were there to help us with homework, and to give us love when we were feeling especially home sick. It truly felt like having another family while you were in Morocco. Which at first, sounds almost exhausting to constantly be with other people all the time, but to have people there to care about you and to look out for you while experiencing a culture so different makes all the difference.
A student of Cross-Cultural Justice at American University in Washington, D.C., Lucette Moran recently returned from her Fall 2014 AMIDEAST program in Morocco. Participating on the Area & Arabic Language Studies Program, Lucette shares some of her favorite moments of Morocco.
This picture was taken at sunset during my first few weeks in Rabat. Living in Hay L’Ocean, I was able to stroll along the beach after classes with enough time before dark, and I tried to take advantage of it throughout the warmer weather. The power of the change of tides on the rocky coast of Rabat will be forever seared into my memory, even back on the east coast of the United States, staring back at the endless Atlantic Ocean.
The following post was submitted by Fall 2013 participant Marjahn Goodman. A student at University of Mary Washington, Marjahn spent her fall semester on AMIDEAST Education Abroad’s Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Amman, Jordan. Here, she reflects on her semester in Jordan via pictures taken while abroad.
Finding Peace Abroad
Being abroad is an unbelievable experience and adjusting can take time. Every week I would try to explore Jordan to learn from the historical sites and the local people. One of the most amazing places in Amman is the Roman Amphitheater located downtown, the heart of the city. Visiting the sight is amazing because you are surrounded by the Jordanian culture reserved in downtown Amman. It is a great place to sit to write, relax, meet new people and explore.
The following post was submitted by Fall 2013 participant Madinatou Diallo. A student of International Relations at Mount Holyoke College, Madinatou spent her fall semester on AMIDEAST Education Abroad’s Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Rabat, Morocco. In her submission, she reflects on her semester in Morocco.
When I think about the four months I spent in Rabat, happy memories flood through my head– lunch with friends in Agdal, spending too many hours in the Medina, breakfast with my roommate and host dad, kissing my host mom whenever I returned home, drinking tea with my family while the TV went on unnoticed– which makes me want to do it all over again. But in the back of my mind, I know that it is impossible to recreate the wonderful moments I had in Morocco. For one, it is highly unlikely that the friends I made from all over the United States will all be there again for four months.
A student of Anthropology and Linguistics at Montana State University, Gabe Lavin is a 2012-2013 academic year student on AMIDEAST’s Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Egypt. In this submission, Gabe discusses his involvement with the music community in Cairo and the development of his oud skills.
I came to Egypt to pursue my interest in Arabic music and studies on the guitar-like instrument called the ‘oud’ that I began playing two years before my arrival in Cairo in August of 2012. I immediately jumped into the music scene in Cairo by attending concerts and trying to become acquainted with a diversity of local musicians. AMIDEAST gave me many opportunities to pursue these interests as well through the Community-Based Learning course where I volunteered with the NGO called ‘Makan:’ Egyptian Center for Culture and Art. The organization focuses on the preservation on traditional Egyptian music. However, after having been in Cairo for about month, and often expressing my interest in the oud and Arabic music, I heard a lot about a place called Beit El Oud and the world famous Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shama who runs the place.
Dickinson College student of Economics, Mary Campbell, participated in AMIDEAST Education Abroad’s Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Amman, Jordan during the Fall 2012 semester. In this post, she reflects on her semester abroad in the Hashemite Kingdom.
Mansef, the national dish of Jordan, is a popular meal among all locals. I took this picture at the house of my language partner when she invited me over for lunch with her family. Having a language partner was a great resource that AMIDEAST provided which was not only important for improving my language skills but also broadening my cultural experience.