Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Study Abroad in

Back to Program Back to Blog Home

02/22/2017

CIEE Spring Semester 2017 Newsletter I

Author: Erin Hayes

First Weekend

Our time in Morocco thus far has been a blur…it is hard to believe that a full month has gone by! Our group has managed to pack a lot of adventure into our first four weeks together. We hit the ground running the first weekend here with a celebration of birth for a member of one of our host families. All of the students came for music, fun, and lots of food. The event lasted most of the day and we saw it as a major happening, so we were pretty surprised when we were told afterwards that the family regarded it as a small lunch party.

Unnamed

The next day, we toured many of the sites of Rabat, our home city. We started off at Chellah, where we explored both ruins from both a Roman city and a medieval Muslim necropolis. A few members of our group study history, so this was especially interesting. The tour also showed us around the picturesque Kasbah of Oudaya and of course, the iconic Hassan Tower and Mausoleum of Muhammed V.

Unnamed (1)dd  Unnamedww

Unnamed (1)fe  Unnamed (1)wr

Darija

With this brief introduction under our belts, we were ready to dive into our two-week intensive Darija course. Five hours per day was a lot, but we learned a few phrases quickly and had fun with the language, from preparing tajine to bargaining in the medina. We found many Moroccans who were willing to practice with us, from our host families to cab drivers and hanut owners. Throughout our time here, it has been amazing to see how our limited attempts to speak the language are appreciated. For example, on one of our excursions we stopped for a snack, and simply saying “Mashi mushkil” (no problem) brought a smile to the waiter’s face.

Unnamed (1)zsf  Unnamed (1)asf

Casablanca

When our day trip to Casablanca approached, everyone we told about it in Rabat laughed wryly and told us that we wouldn’t like it. This conflicted so much with the American view of Casablanca (mostly informed by the classic movie) as a romantic, cosmopolitan destination. After the trip, most of our group concurred with the other Rabat residents in that we prefer our home city.

That being said, our excursion was by no means terrible. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca was an impressive sight and tour, and the city also hosts the largest mall in Africa. But attractions aside, as a city to live in, Rabat is more beautiful and more friendly overall. The classic example that comes to mind is the cabs. Petit taxis in Rabat turn on the meter as soon as you get in the cab, but cabs in Casablanca tried to keep the meter off so they could name an arbitrary price. This was tricky to navigate with limited language skills, and although it was just one small aspect of the city, it felt so good to take the train back to Rabat, get into a cab, and see the meter already on.

Unnamed (1)afw Unnamed (1)asfqwf
Sdqwdffw

Fez

A few members of the group travelled to Fez the following weekend, and we liked the city much more than Casablanca. Our trip started out on an especially high note when we reached our Airbnb and realized that we would be staying in a palace…literally. We were so mesmerized by the beautiful architecture of our accommodations that we all facetimed our friends and family to show off our rooms and the courtyard below.

Once we were settled in, we met up with Brooke, a CIEE Rabat alum, in Café Clock, where two of us tried camel burgers. Other highlights of the trip included exploring (and getting lost in) the old medina, visiting a tannery, and going to a point overlooking the old medina at dusk.

Unnamed (1)asfasefr

Unnamed (1)zsavc
Unnamed (1)fdf

Meknes

This past weekend we took a day trip to Volubilis, Moulay Idriss, and Meknes. Volubilis (or, as I found out, Walili in Arabic) hosts some amazing Roman ruins, including ornate mosaics that were buried until recently due to the Lisbon earthquake. In a miscommunication with my Moroccan host family, my host father asked me repeatedly if we stopped at Walili on the way to Meknes and I responded with an emphatic no, but then went on to describe the major Roman ruins that we saw. We eventually had a laugh when we realized that we were talking about the same site but using different names.

Although the Meknes medina was closed because we visited on a Friday afternoon, we enjoyed the historical tour of the city, including the old granary and stable and a creepy underground prison. Our disappointment over not seeing the medina was further mitigated by the fact that we then had time to stop for tea and pastries on the trip home. With everyone together on the bus, the ride back was also a good opportunity for the group to plan some future excursions, and we are looking forward to adventures to come!

Unnamed (1)assf23 Unnamed (1)asrewr



12/02/2016

CIEE Fall Semester 2016 Newsletter V

Author: Nicole Ditolla

“Wouldn't you know we're riding on the Marrakesh Express,” is a line from the song Marrakesh Express sung by Crosby, Stills and Nash.  But in all honesty, it could very well be the name of our bus! While we were in the midst of our travels, some of my friends and I calculated the amount of hours that we have been on the bus. It totaled out to just about 96 hours. I have seen just about every nook and cranny of Morocco, and I cannot be more thankful!

This past weekend, CIEE took us to the beautiful and touristy Marrakesh and the coastal city of Essaouira. Our first stop after checking into our beautiful hotel was a lovely rooftop restaurant. You could see the entire UNESCO protected Djemaa el-Fna medina from where we ate. After we wandered the streets with a tour guide, which is always a necessary because the medina of Marrakesh is a maze. I would have most definitely gotten lost if I sauntered on my own. In the midst of the tour, we stumbled onto the Ali Ben Youssel Medersa, the old Koranic school for children. After the tour, we were allowed to saunter on our own. I ended of buying a lantern, while my friend Max bought a Palestinian soccer jersey. Our group bargaining effort saved him more than 50 percent! The jersey started at $80, but with our acquired bargaining skills, thanks to our intense bargaining training at the CIEE Center, kicked in and we negotiated until it was only $25.

15178136_10154301945078752_7743763282694290153_n

The following day, we went into the Atlas Mountains and hiked through a local village. Our lack of athleticism was rewarded with chicken tajine when we returned. It was a long ride to Essaouira from the mountains.

15219479_10154301936523752_1703363104766216580_n

15171333_10154301944043752_4852326212238129537_n

15170816_10154301938478752_5734204438247099131_n

14203123_10154079842453752_592364763720397193_n

The following morning we checked out the city. Unfortunately it was very rainy in Essaouira, but a trip to the fish markets and port rejuvenated our spirits! It was definitely one of the most interesting tours of the program, thus far. Essaouira was also the set for a number of episodes of the popular show Game of Thrones. Although, most of us do not watch the show, it was very cool to picture the city of Essaouira being transformed into an ancient port city.

15241782_10154301954023752_2179303219866085246_n

15179223_10154301954013752_8740194836551608573_n

The following morning we headed back to Rabat. It was a rewarding trip to see central and southern Morocco! I underestimated the vast enormity of Morocco, but this country is huge. And it has so much to offer! Each city we visit, I pick up something different about the Moroccan culture.

11/13/2016

CIEE Fall Semester 2016 Newsletter IV

 Author:  James Harrington                    الكاتب: جيمس هرينتن

14671075_10154041581652005_1718189819964200018_n

العيش في الرباط فرصة رائعة تمنح للطلاب الأمريكيين عيش تجربة مدينة مختلفة وثقافة تختلف كثيرا عن أي ولاية من الولايات المتحدة. لدي وجهة نظر لا تصدق لأنّني أعيش مع عائلة مغربية تتيح لي المشاركة في المناسبات العائلية مثل الاحتفال بالأعياد، والقيام بزيارات لأفراد الأسرة، والأهم ذلك في رأيي، معايشة الحياة اليومية التي تشكل جوهر الثقافة المغربية. بالإضافة إلى الدراسة، والرحلات، والأنشطة خارج الصفّ، ببساطة اقدر العيش في المغرب  إذ يعطيني تجرية غنية وفريدة حول  الثقافة المغربية

       أسكن في عمارة في ضواحي أكدال الرباط،و هو حي رغيد يوجد فيه الكثير من المحلات التجارية والمطاعم والعديد من المباني الحكومية، و هو قريب من جامعة محمد الخامس. أكدال حركي طوال اليوم و خلال الساعات المتأخرة من الليل فهناك العديد من الطلبة والعائلات والسكان المحليين الآخرين. ذهبت الى حديقة هيلتون مع والدي المستضيف، الذي عاش في منزله كل حياته، وقال انّه يتذكر عندما كان الرباط مدينة أصغر  بكثير؛ في طفولته، كان المغرب ثلث عدد سكان اليوم

     تتكون عائلتي المستضيفة من زوجين كبيرين، وإبنهما وزوجته،و إبنهما الصغير و عمره ثلاث سنوات. كل صباح استيقظ على صوت الاذان للصلاة من مسجد قريب، وأعود إلى النوم لبضع ساعات قبل أن استيقظ لتناول وجبة الإفطار بالخبز و المربى والجبن والشاي بالطبع. أقبل والدتي المشتضيفة وأصافح يد والدي قبل الخروج إلى المدرسة التي تبعد حوالي 20 دقيقة مشيا على الأقدام عبر الأزقة وشوارع المدينة المزدحمة، متفاديا السيارات والدراجات النارية الموجودة داخل وخارج كل الممرات. أحضر الفصول الدراسية حول مجموعة من المواضيع الشرق أوسطية، من الربيع العربي إلى الثقافة والتاريخ المغربيين، إضافة إلى اللغة العربية الفصحى والدارجة. آكل الغداء في المطاعم المحلية مع زملائي، عادةً آكل الشاورما أو الطاجين، ودائماً أشرب عصير الفاكهة الطازجة. لا أتكلم الفرنسية ومعظم الناس هنا لا يتكلمون الإنجليزية بطلاقة، ولذلك أضطررت على ممارسة التكلّم بالدارجة عندما أطلب الطعام، أوأشتري البضائع في الحانوت، أوالتفاعل و التواصل مع الناس في الشارع

بعد المدرسة أجتمع عادةً مع طالب من جامعة محلية لتبادل الدروس الخصوصية. هو يعلمني الدارجة وأنا أعلمه اللغة الإنجليزية. نتحدّث عن كل المواضيع، من العائلة إلى السياسة ومن الموسيقى إلى الدراسات.  هذا أعطى لي فكرة  و تجرية قوية عن الطالب المغربي وما  ستكون حياتي لو أنني ولدت في المغرب،  و هي تجرية أعطت لي أيضا صديق مقرب. عندما لا أدرس غالباً ما آخذ الترام إلى المدينة أو المتاجر أو مجرد مشاهدة السوق المزدحمة، أو أمشي الى حديقة عامة محلية، أو أفعل الواجب في مقهى

عندما أعود إلى البيت كل أسرتي يرحبون بي، مرة أخرى أقبل أمّي المضيفة وأصافح  يد والدي، وألوح لأخي وزوجته. يبدأ الصبي يصرخ بأشياء  بالدارجة التي لا أستطيع أن أفهمها، بسبب  عدم خبرتي أو بسبب سرعة تحدثه، وعادةً أطارده أو أسمح له بمطاردني لفترة من الوقت قبل العشاء. يعطيني الاتجاهات وأنا أرد عليه بالإيماءات أو بتعابير الوجه كأنّني أفهمه، ولكن بصراحة أفهم معظمها من خلال لغة جسده ونبرته

في العشاء آكل ما أكلته عائلتي  في الغداء، عادةً طبق من اللحم والخضر  المبخرة والسلطة، مرفوقة بسلة خبز، وتليها مجموعة متنوعة من    الفواكه. نحن جميعا نجلس معاً ونشاهد "سامحيني"،مسلسل دراما تركي  له شعبية كبيرة و يبث كل ليلة، و دائما أشارك  الصدمة أوالإثارة  مع والدتي وأختي المستضيفتين. والدي ووالدتي يأخذون فترات  الوصلات الاشهارية فرصة للصلاة عندما يتم بث اذان الصلاة على التلفزيون. الولد الصغير غير مهتم جدا ويفضل اللعب معي و القيام بتعابير وجه قبل يصرخ الكبار "حشومة!!" عندما نتناول وجبة العشاء يقوم الجميع للنوم، لكن قبل ذلك أقوم بغسل صحني وأقول ليلة سعيدة إلى كل شخص في المنزل وأذهب للاستحمام والقيام بواجباتي في غرفتي

حياتي اليومية هنا مماثلة للغاية ومختلفة كثيرا عن حياتي في الولايات المتحدة، وأنا ممتن لكل فرصة  أتيحت لي لمعايشة ما يجعل الحياة في المغرب فريدة وكذا كل أوجه التشابه التي تجلب ثقافاتينا معاً. الدراسة بالخارج اتاحت لي الفرصة لكي أنمو وأتعرف على ثقافة أخرى بأقوى وسيلة ممكنة؛ عن طريق التجربة، وبناء العلاقات، و عيش حياة مماثلة للحياة التي يعيشها الآخرون

11/03/2016

CIEE Fall Semester 2016 Newsletter III

Img_5385

Img_5346   Img_5357   Img_5349 Img_5358  Img_5359   Img_5371Img_5353    Img_5365   Img_5369  Img_5377
Chefchaouen—Morocco’s blue pearl—gets its name from the fusion of two Moroccan languages, Arabic and Tamazight, and translates to ‘see the mountain peaks.’ As one can thus gather, Chefchaouen is a town nestled in the Riff Mountains in Northern Morocco. What is truly remarkable about this town is its painted blue. This makes for an amazingly tranquil, peaceful, and beautiful city. While it is unclear as to why exactly the city was painted blue there are a few reasons. The first is that it repels mosquitos and is also easier on the eyes when it is sunny. The more likely reason though relates back to a time when there was a large Jewish population living in Chefchaouen. For the Jewish people blue is a very symbolic color as it is the same color as the sky  and it signifies hope and the idea of freedom under a blue sky.

The first day in Chefchaouen we spent wandering around the blue streets marveling at the beauty around every corner of the city. For lunch we ate at a restaurant that was ‘farm to table’ and had a wonderfully fresh lunch complete with Tajines (of course), cucumber and tomato salad, and a homemade goat’s milk yogurt for desert. We took a short walk up to a mosque on a hill to get a panoramic view of the city as the sun set behind the mountains in the West. I can see why this country is known as the land of sunsets, it was unreal with vibrant hues of orange, fuschia, and gold.

Friday morning we woke early as the call to prayer was bone shatteringly loud outside of our Riad. For breakfast we had three types of bread Morocco specializes in: xubz, rghaif, and beghrir. After being loaded up on carbs (as per usual with a Moroccan meal) we headed into the Riff Mountains to go hiking. We hiked 14 km roundtrip to the Akchoura waterfall. It was so refreshing to be in nature and left us all feeling re-juvenated…and sweaty.

Saturday we attended various artisan workshops in town. I went to a leather making one and learned how to make a leather bracelet, so I’m pretty much a pro now. And others went to painting, brass-making, and carpet weaving workshops. After completing our crafts for the morning we went to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco on the Mediterranean Coast. We just sauntered over the border and BOOM we were in Spain. It was amazing to see the immediate change in culture, language, and food available. While the ultimate reason for traveling to Ceuta was to reset our visas, we went to dine on chorizo, cheese, and beer…a necessity. It was a nice relaxing afternoon as almost all of Ceuta was closed due to the Spanish ‘siesta.’

Sunday began as a lazy Sunday morning with all of us snuggling around the breakfast tables on the roof of our Riad. It had rained pretty heavily the night before (yes it rains in Africa?!) and had cooled off significantly. Some of us attended an herbal infusion workshop, very Boulder-like, where we learned how to make Oregano essential oils. While I can’t claim to have done much other than drink tea and sample oregano water (I don’t recommend it) it was interesting nonetheless. After everyone did a little bit of shopping we left Chefchaouen and went to a rural village for lunch. We learned a little about rural life in Morocco and ate a different type of Tajine with chicken and quince and had fresh fruit for dessert. It amazes me how cheap and delicious the fruit is here.

All in all this might have been my favorite excursion so far. I felt really at ease and comfortable in Chefchaouen. The people were so much more friendly and accommodating than other cities. Perhaps the best part of the city was the lack of cat-calling and aggressive shop owners.

 

10/15/2016

CIEE Fall Semester 2016 Newsletter II

Author: Bridget McWaid

After a long nine-hour drive though the night, on a warm and crammed bus, all seventeen of us arrived safe and sound to Merzouga.  I think it is safe to say that we all would go on that bus ride many a time again to experience our time in the Sahara desert. After arriving to Merzouga at 8AM, we all stuffed our faces with warm bread, fresh honey, berry jam, and steaming sweet mint tea. Following our much-needed breakfast, we took to slumber to rest a few hours before our journey into the desert.

FFF

            When our allotted rest time was over we all packed up and made our way to meet our fellow camel friends. As soon as the camels were in eyesight, I could feel the excitement all around. Into the desert we rode, though the golden sand and under the bright blue sky. We ended our ride at a luxurious campsite where we dismounted our camels and walked up the nearest dune to watch the picturesque sunset drinking our complementary mint tea. That evening we enjoyed a scrumptious tajine with bread followed by a grand fruit platter. When the sky turned black, the shining stars and Milky Way galaxy were nothing less than magical. I can honestly say that night is my most memorable experience and will be one of my best memories to look back on.

222

            The nest day we traveled to Ourarzazate where we spent the night and then continued on our road trip early the next morning to Todra Gorge; a narrow valley between hills or mountains, with steep rocky walls and a stream running through it. We pulled our van over to the side of the road for a break and liberated our stiff backs with a walk in the cold, refreshing stream. To look up at the parting mountains, bright blue sky, and cotton candy clouds, while walking in the crystal-clear stream was remarkable.

333

            We piled back into the van and continued on to Marrakesh where we spent the night in a hostel in the center of the medina. Although I nearly got drastically lost, the medina was a beautiful intertwinement of roads brimming full with all five senses: bright colors, salivating smells, loud noises, smooth leather, and delicious cactus fruit. Following Marrakesh, the CIEE clan continued on our home stretch back home to Rabat.

444

            From Merzouga, to Ouarzazate, to Todra Gorge, and finally to Marrakesh, the weekend was whirlwind of insanely groovy experiences. I will never forget this weekend and I will forever be thankful for this beautiful adventure.

555

09/23/2016

CIEE Fall Semester 2016 Newesletter I

Exploring Rabat By Maryam Baig 

The Amazing CIEE Staff 

I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude towards the genuine staff at the CIEE center in Morocco. From the resident director Madiha Chafik DeRosa, the Program Assistant, Oumaima Farik and also the Program Assistant/ Darija Professor Haddou Elbour, thank you for making our transition into a new country an easy, fun, and memorable one. 

Rabat Tour 

Following the first week with orientation sessions and the start of Darija class, we went on a Rabat tour on the first weekend of the CIEE program. We visited Chellah, a Roman city that was rebuilt by the Marinids in the 13th century. Complete with a mosque, madrasa, Andalusian style garden and an ongoing water system that the nearby neighbors continue to use even today. 

Mohammad V Mausoleum 

This is where the current Moroccan king's father ( the late King Hassan II) and great-grandfather have been laid to rest. The construction of this monument is a testament to the beauty of Moroccan architecture. Complete with a mesmerizing mosque right next to it, the intricate attention to  detail from the carved wood to the patterned zellij, makes me wish that non-muslims were also allowed into the mosque to appreciate its captivating beauty. 

 

The Qasbah of Rabat 

On the left is an image of the Qasbah, a medieval fort overlooking the new city of Rabat. Underneath the image of the Qasbah, you'll see the beautiful blue and white houses lined up throughout the beautiful Qasbah. Also, I must admit that, although I am a dog person, yet seeing all these adorable cats lingering around Rabat is really heart melting! You must Visit this beautiful country, as having witnessed its captivating beauty in person- be it the people who welcomed me with open arms everywhere I went, or the numerous monuments I've strolled through, I know these images I've captured hardly do any justice to its beauty.  

07/21/2016

AL & MS summer 2016 Issue IV

Rabat CIEE scene by Reyanna Blank

FOURTH OF JULY

13592267_670767686420592_6289626895201224083_n

No fireworks, but Rabat really is our home away from home! We combined Iftar and a Fourth of July celebration with the Moroccan teachers, "buddies," and American students.

13815117_1025419144172837_293066944_n

13819843_1025419187506166_494996508_n

JORDAN AND ISRAEL

July 6—11, 2016

In addition to visiting other cities within Morocco, our group of five in the Moroccan Studies program spent a week in Jordan and Israel. It still blows me away that the trip was even possible. We departed early Wednesday morning from the Casablanca airport and arrived in Amman, Jordan, where we visited the old Roman Theater, Citadel Hill, and ate some delicious Jordanian kebab and hummus (and then slept off our jetlag for the rest of the day).

Early the next morning the real part of our Israel adventure began. We met up with seven other students in the CIEE Jordan program and two CIEE directors. Together we crossed the border by cab and bus from Jordan into Israel—or attempted to. Anyone familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict knows just how challenging crossing the border can be, and two members of our group were held up at the border with one of the directors for six hours waiting for their passports to be cleared. Finally, though, they were through, and we continued our journey to the sea of Galilee.

13619828_553932658147908_2651433208958539154_n

    Only slightly behind schedule, we traveled to (in my opinion) the most important place to visit in Israel—the Chwarma vendor. Afterward we bussed to Capernaum and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter by the sea, where we were able to put our feet into the same water that Jesus is said to have. Exhausted from our long day, we finally made it to our home base in the city of Haifa.

    The first day was only physically tiring, though; visiting Jerusalem the next day was an emotional marathon. We were introduced to a plethora of both religious and historic landmarks: The Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and both the Western Wall and the Separation Wall. We ended our Israel experience with a brief stop in Nazareth for more chwarma and then walking to the top of the Mount of Precipice for a last overview of the area.

13817212_1025419210839497_1318523714_n

     As part of our cultural studies, the trip was intended to offer us the opportunity to critically compare two different cultures outside the U.S., and I think it more than accomplished that. As someone who had never been outside the United States before, jumping into Morocco for my first trip was a pretty big challenge for me and it took a while to adjust to—so it was a huge surprise that I felt so immediately comfortable in Israel. Even though I intellectually knew that not every country in the region is similar, it still came as a surprise to see how big the differences are among just Morocco, Jordan, and Israel. Studying abroad to Morocco has permanently changed how I perceive other cultures and my own—getting another perspective through traveling to Jordan and Israel, however, was invaluable, and I hope that CIEE students are able to continue making so many trips for many sessions to come!

13614920_10205041010944644_8971283526247615255_n (1)

06/20/2016

Jyothi Kavil's (High School Exchange Student) project after one week of Moroccan Colloquial Arabic

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing your assignment with us Jyothi! #CIEE Rabat #HSSA Project Week 1 (1)

Project Week 1

Project Week 1 (1)

Project Week 1 (2)

Project Week 1 (3)

Project Week 1 (4)

Project Week 1 (5)

Project Week 1 (6)

Project Week 1 (7)

Project Week 1 (8)

06/17/2016

AL summer 2016 Issue II

      Author: Huda Khwaja 

     Prior to coming to Morocco, I had no exposure at all to Darija. My assumption coming in was that it would just be a small twist on Modern Standard Arabic. It turns out I was wrong. It is far more different that I was expecting, and definitely more unique than any other language I have been exposed to. Darija has many influences from other languages, including French, Spanish, Farsi, and Tamazight just to name a few. Through my Darija class here in CIEE Morocco, I and my classmates have been granted the opportunity to navigate this intricate web of a language with guidance from our fantastic instructor.

      Darija class is very practical, with our class primarily focusing on language that is useful for daily life. From learning language for bargaining to shopping in the "hanut" (store) to communicating  with our host families, each day of class offers us a new chance to expand our vocabulary and communication skills and then utilize it the second we step out into Moroccan society when class ends.

    Our instructor ensures that we don't just sit quietly jotting notes in our books the whole class period. Rather, he lines up engaging activities and highly encourages us to practice as we learn in class. We've done all sorts of unique and even fun activities in class to assist with the learning process. We have pretended to be cars and drivers on a road as we learned to give directions. We roleplayed as shop owner and customer to practice buying items and bargaining in Darija. My personal favorite is the game where someone starts a story (using new vocabulary) and then we go around the room, each person taking a turn adding more to the story.

    Although, Darija is not what I was expecting as I began this study abroad program, it's something I have grown to enjoy and appreciate, especially during my Darija class.

06/16/2016

The Whole Nine Yards

Blog authored by CIEE Rabat Summer Intern: Taha El Hadari

The whole nine yards

From the very beginning of their arrival, they saw that Uncle Sam’s land and the sunset land “Morocco” are far more different than they could ever imagine. This is the journey of a group of university students who chose Morocco as a destination to study Arabic language in the summer at CIEE-Rabat.

Since their arrival to Rabat on Monday, May 23rd, the four students have been experiencing all of what Morocco has to offer. Several trips to different cities and places, excursions, and simply hanging out with buddies/volunteers made Lucy, Stewart, Huda, and Chelsey learn a lot about Morocco, Moroccan Standard Arabic, and the Moroccan way of life. Right after the first couple of days, you would hear the four students saying “Mashi Mushkil”, “shukran”, and “sbaH l-xir”… you could see their eyes glowing out of happiness that they’ve had the chance to learn new words they could use to impress their host families and the CIEE staff.

Because they have reached half of their journey within Arabic Language program, CIEE Rabat thought of asking them about their progress, about what they feel has changed in their life even for this short, yet inclusive and fun period of time. Their answers were very articulate and, to my say, they all brilliantly depicted their experience so far. Therefore, and without further ado, let’s leave the students’ answers speak for themselves. 

Lucy (the girl who loves peanut butter more than she loves herself) believes that not traveling to other countries narrows your vision to the world. To her, coming to Morocco made her realize “how great the world is, how great Muslims are”. Reflecting on the media, she said that she always knew the media gave skewed perceptions, but after coming here she became so frustrated with how much the media has warped the image of Muslims and their faith. She also elaborated explaining that there is so much more to the people here than the media shows, and a lot of Americans don't realize that. “They automatically associate Islam with something to be wary or scared of, but they shouldn't be afraid of interacting with Muslims because, although they may look different and have different traditions, they're very warm and kind people”. Pic1Moreover, although she knew Christians and Muslims had their differences, after coming to Morocco she realized that there are more similarities between the two than she used to believe, such as the way both view life and the people in it. She was also nice enough to share her ideology in life about the foregoing topic…” You also need to have the will to feel the change and to experience, you have to want to get to know the culture and the people but you also must have the patience to get to know about the people… it’s not easy but it’s very satisfying and educational”. Her words, to my humble knowledge, were very acute and touched upon the heart of the discussion. One more thing is the fact that she has grown to love how people value family. Despite the existence of that in the United States as well, she said, it is very special here however…how everyone takes turns and how older kids take the time to play with the younger kids without having to be told to do so.

Pic2

While Lucy preferred to be a blank slate to take the country and the culture as it is, Stewart had more knowledge than you would expect. Through his Moroccan friend in the states, he knew what to expect, but still didn’t expect Rabat to be as urban as it is. He also said that he loved living Agdal “I feel like I’m in the middle of everything, a few good restaurants, schools, shopping stores…everything”. And on how he feels he has improved, he said that his sense of direction has greatly improved, he now knows how to get to places quicker and where to buy good food. Furthermore, he said that living with a host family makes ones realize how lucky he is to have a family and you get to be grateful for what you have. He also talked about learning Standard Arabic and Darija (Moroccan Arabic)… “I’ve grown to appreciate Darija and the fact that it is a mixture of multiple languages. It’s a mixture of Spanish, French, Arabic, and Amazigh. I get to appreciate it and respect it…it’s a very cool language”. Moreover, being passionate about soccer, he added that even he had to change his schedule to watch the US soccer team; the game starts at 1 am so he has to go to sleep at 9 pm and wake up at half past midnight to watch the games or stay up until it’s on and go to sleep at 3 am. However, he said that he had the chance to watch the Moroccan national team play in addition to several clubs from the Moroccan league. That was very interesting, to his view, in that he was able to judge it compared to the quality he’s used to watching. He also found very satisfying to get to see the number one sport in the country.

Very different from Stewart’s viewpoint, Huda’s perspective of things differed on how she viewed this experience so far. The first sentence that ran out of her mouth was that she feels very confident now that she can do things by herself. She then talked about how staying with a host family of complete strangers was scary at first, being out of her comfort zone. Nonetheless, she is now glad to be with a host family because that constituted a huge opportunity to feel more like home, be around a big family and little kids, and enjoy the good food. Also, having a roommate, Lucy, made the experience even more enjoyable. She then moved on to talk about how conversations with CIEE staff and the students made her learn a lot; the fact that the CIEE staff is so diverse and unique, each with their own way of thinking. For example, how Lucy would talk about her roommate and how much one could learn from that. She elaborated on the discussion by saying that “you don’t come up with solutions, but it gets you thinking about the reason you’re here”. You could see the flame of ambition within her when she was saying all of the aforementioned. Furthermore, what made interviewing Huda so inspiring is what she said right after this. She said “I really don’t know how this is gonna change me. I’m not gonna completely understand how this experience would change me, maybe not now, but years from now”. Conversely, she inspired and took the conversation to ambitious turn of events by saying that she hopes something happens and changes her for the better… come back wiser than before, more enlightened, and with a broader perspective. Pic3

Chelsey on the other hand, when asked about how much difference she has been through and to what extent coming to Morocco affected her, she said that plenty of people told her a lot about Morocco, but she wanted to experience it on her own. The reason why she didn’t ahead to their forewarnings was because “You can’t listen to every opinion because every opinion isn’t valid”. Moreover, one of the intriguing things that caught her attention is that she found out that Moroccans are more accepting to change than she expected and that “everyone here is similar to people in America”. 

PicchelsOne more thing that was life changing is that she realized that Moroccans walk fast. Hence, “instead of driving I started walking too and that made me feel good, it made me feel happier knowing that I can achieve more than I expected”. She elaborated for a while about how food is a very big part of Moroccan culture and how that is amazing because of the sense of family gathering on every meal and how everyone sits down to have a meal together.  For a final word on how would all the aforementioned facts would change her life, she said “I’m gonna make more effort to change my life and learn to appreciate what I have”.

While these few words I have written attempt to give an idea on how it is like to live the life of a study abroad student, it is still nothing close from being in their shoes, going the whole nine yards, and personally experiencing living in another country. While all of the four students gave Morocco and their experience herein their share of gratitude and gratefulness, it is still merely a sheer guesswork to the reader. It is not until you experience it firsthand that you get to know how amazing it is. So for those of you reading this, come and get the whole nine yards!