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
This post was submitted by Laura Kauer, a student at American University in Washington, DC and a participant in AMIDEAST’s spring 2013 Area & Arabic Language Studies Program in Rabat, Morocco. In addition to reflecting on her semester abroad, Laura uses photography to describe her most memorable aspects of Morocco.
Once of the first trips I took outside of Rabat was to the sleepy beach town of Asilah. During the summer it is the chosen spot for European tourists and artists; but in the winter, it was a completely different experience as we walked through the half empty medina. We walked through its blue and white streets marveling at the infinite shades of blue and green of the doors and windows. Later in the night, I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets on the beach and saw the water slowly take on all the hues of blue and green that I had seen that day in Asilah’s streets.
Filed under Arabic, Morocco
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.
The entry below was submitted by Area & Arabic Language Studies Spring 2013 Program participant Samual Hobert. A student of International Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, in this post Sam reflects on his invitation to hold a discussion with a student club at Al Azhar University in Cairo.
This past Monday, I had the privilege of lecturing at Al-Azhar University’s Faculty of Translation. Founded in 970 A.D., Al-Azhar is one of the world’s oldest universities and one of Egypt’s biggest. A language-learning buddy of mine, Mustafa, invited me to speak in front of the student organization “Spread Your Skills.” The organization, commonly referred to as ”SYS”, was launched by a group of Al-Azhari students to further develop and improve their English language proficiency, a skill increasingly needed in Egypt’s shrinking jobs market. Mustafa, while a member himself, leads the advanced class of students in weekly sessions. Excited as I entered the doors of the school’s building, little did I know how much of an effect this short visit would have not only on my outlook of Egypt but my understanding of education’s power as well.
As I entered the fourth-floor classroom, the greetings I received were sincere and the smiles were wide. Conversation was strictly limited to English and any Arabic was punished by a 1 Egyptian Pound fine – enforced by Mustafa – put towards funding of group outings throughout Cairo. Taking my place behind the professor’s desk in the front of the class I realized that while I had a public-speaking class under my belt, nothing could have prepared my for this moment as forty sets of eyes intently looked onto me, notebooks open, pencils in hand waiting for me to begin.
On the last excursion of the semester, some Spring 2012 Cairo students smile for the camera in the Siwa Oasis, in the remote western region of Egypt.
(c) Ahmed Elkhalawy