The following entry was submitted by Shante Fencl, a spring 2016 participant on AMIDEAST’s Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Morocco. A student of International Studies at American University, Shante reflects on her highlights of Morocco and what first surprised her.
On a cold January morning before dawn, my mother and I packed up our car. I had already said my goodbyes to friends and family, and it was time to start the six hour drive to JFK airport from my small town outside of Cleveland, OH. That night I had a plane to catch that would take me to Morocco where I would spend the next four months of my life learning about the culture and language of the land. I felt as though I was saying goodbye to the people I loved for a lifetime, but I never expected that I would have the same emotions about new friends and new family once my semester abroad came to an end.
As soon as I landed in the airport in Casablanca, the realization of being in a foreign land hit me. As I walked outside I could see the sun rising through the palm trees (a sight I could never see in Ohio!) The only thing I knew about Casablanca was from the black and white Humphrey Bogart film, and the vivid colors of the landscape took me by surprise. My driver took me to the city where I would be living and studying during my semester abroad with AMIDEAST: Rabat. Not knowing the language and being an ocean away from anyone I have ever known made me feel so alone. After our first week of orientation with AMIDEAST, all of the students were placed into our host families. I met my new roommate, my new family, and moved into my new home within a matter of hours. I can remember thinking that these new people and places would never become normal to me. I could not imagine getting used to life in Morocco, but I am happy I was proven wrong.
Within a few short weeks of being in the country, I learned basic phrases for survival in Arabic and could express myself in simple words to have conversations with locals. I made amazing friends both in the AMIDEAST program and in Rabat and I began to travel the country I called home for the semester. As each week passed, I began to feel more comfortable in this new place. The sights I saw everyday were now commonplace, the people I came to know and love were now an important part of my life. By the very end of the program, I had experienced a lifetime in only four months. I started to appreciate and understand the new culture I was living in. I began to see the similarities and differences between my country and Morocco and I was so thankful for being able to experience life in both places. Most importantly, I fell in love with a new place away from home.
Immediately after leaving Morocco, I was heartbroken. The only thing I wanted to do was go back to that first day when I got off the plane in Casablanca. I wanted to do it all over again. Now that I knew the country, the people, and could communicate in the language, I knew I could make the most of my time if I could just go back and start over again. But I couldn’t start over. My semester was done. As I sat there in my home thinking about my time in Morocco, I realized how fortunate I was to have had even four months in the country. I learned so much not only about the culture and language, but also about myself. I learned to be proud of where I came from, but to find the beauty in other places as well. I learned to challenge myself and do things I never dreamed of doing before. I guess you can say that I learned to live, and I will always be grateful to Morocco for teaching me that.
Filed under 2016, Morocco
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.
Another essay from our scholarship winner, Isaiah DuPree, an International Relations Major and Arabic Minor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Isaiah studied with AMIDEAST in Morocco during the 2013-2014 academic year. In this essay, he reflects on a special meal with his host family.
Last week was host family appreciation week. During this week we can give tokens of our appreciation to our host parents or play an American game with our host families. We can do anything that both demonstrates our gratitude for what they do, as well as creates a basis of intercultural dialogue. After bringing them cantaloupe and dates from the souq, I decided it was time to take it to the next level. I would bring a piece of my kitchen, to theirs.
When I first asked if I could cook dinner, Hajja (what I call my host mom) gave me a hesitant look, which I took as an opportunity to explain to her that I know how to cook and am often required to when I am at home in the states. After Hajja laughed at my eagerness and agreed to let me use the stove, I was on my way to buy my ingredients…
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.
Julie Fisher, a student at American University in the class of 2014, studied abroad with AMIDEAST in Rabat, Morocco during the Spring 2013 semester. As an intern for AMIDEAST Education Abroad during the Fall 2013 semester, Julie has put together a “How To” to live with a host family in order to calm any apprehension about moving in to a new family while studying abroad.
Across the board, when I ask people to identify their favorite part of studying abroad, the homestay experience almost always comes out on top. Sure, it can be daunting at first- who wouldn’t be at least a little bit nervous at the thought of living in a complete stranger’s home for several months? However, most people soon find that these “strangers” quickly turn into a second family.
Below is a photo essay submitted by summer 2013 Intensive Arabic in Rabat, Morocco participant Rockia Coulibaly. A student of International Relations and Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College, Rockia reflects on some of her favorite experiences in Rabat this summer.
On one of my very last days in Morocco, my host family thought it would be a great idea for my roommate and me to try on some of the traditional Moroccan clothing. We tried on both takchitas and caftons. The one I am wearing in this photo is called a takchita, and these dresses are normally worn during weddings and baby showers. The takchita in this photo was actually the takchita that my host sister wore for her wedding. The takchita comes with a belt or mdamma as said in the Moroccan dialect, Darija. The dress is also worn with beautiful jewelry which matches the color and style of the dress. In addition, women also get henna done on their hands and feet for these special occasions.