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2 posts from March 2015


Spring 2015, Issue I

Newsletter band

This semester, we have asked one of our academic year students, Janice Byth, to write the spring newsletters. Janice is originally from Texas, but is a Junior studying at Goucher College outside of Baltimore. She spends her time in Morocco photographing her surroundings, spending time with her host family, and bursting into dance! Thank you Janice for the first newsletter of 2015…we hope you all enjoy, and keep an eye out for more issues to come! 


Students from the Contemporary Moroccan Society and Culture course on a Field Trip

Photo Credit: Julia Takla

Program Update

    Students flew into Rabat on January 26, 2015 where they were welcomed by CIEE staff and local Moroccan students. Following, the next two weeks of orientation consisted of  an intensive Darija (Moroccan Arabic) course, settling into homestay families, touring Rabat, and cultural activities with Moroccan University students. As the Darija course finished on February 11th, students, with their new acquired knowledge performed a talent show in Darija.


From left: Andrew, Sarah, & Grace with their Darija poster.

Photo Credit: Andrew Taylor

    On February 13th , CIEE took students on a day excursion to the small town of Asilah and Tangier. Asilah is about a 3-hour drive from Rabat and is well known for the artistic murals that change each summer. Resident Director Madhia DeRosa has said that Asilah reminds her of Greece with the coastal views and blue and white buildings. Current student Abby Senuty, commented after the excursion that her favorite part was seeing the murals, ocean, and interacting with the numerous cats in town.  Many students decided to extend the day trip and stay the weekend in Tangier, while other students took the opportunity to travel around Morocco or Europe before semester classes began on February 16th.

    CIEE Rabat offers a wide variety of classes for the Spring 2015 semester, including: Modern Standard Arabic (beginner through intermediate), Moroccan Colloquial Arabic (also known as Darija),The Arab Spring and Birth of the Arab Citizen, Contemporary Moroccan Society and Culture, Gender Issues in Morocco, and Business and Economic Issues in the Arab World. 


Photo Credit: Sarah Berry 

    CIEE Rabat has numerous short excursions and cultural events around Rabat for students in order to supplement their time. There have been a number of fun events between academic classes that include a trip to the Mohammed 6th Modern Art Museum, Moroccan cooking courses, and tea parties. 

    For one of the activities, students went to Kenitra’s American Language Center, a 25 min train ride from Rabat, to discuss current issues facing Moroccan youth, such as freedom of speech and politics with local students.

    On March 1st, the Business and Economic Issues in the Arab World professor took the students on a trip to the imperial city of Meknes. The class explored nearby Volubilis (Roman ruins) and toured Moulay Idriss (the birthplace of Moroccan Islam) with a special focus on economic growth and issues in and around the city. Current student Robert De Mata said his favorite part was visiting the olive oil factory and learning about the impact of olive growing in the region

    Classes will not be held from March 8th-12th for Spring Break. Students will take the opportunity to travel to places that include Istanbul, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. 


    Every Wednesday, CIEE and Moroccan students take a break from school work and spend the afternoon volunteering. They volunteer at one of two locations. A youth center and the Orient-Occident Foundation, which deals with  refugees and immigration issues. Students have developed and are leading English, Spanish, art workshops, and after school day-care programs. 


Mac playing with kids at Orient-Occident Foundation


Photo Credit: Abby Senuty


Student of the Month                                    

Name: Julie Takla

University: Tufts University                        

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

    Julie Takla is a junior at Tufts University. She is an International Literary and Visual Studies major with a Film Studies minor.  She wanted to study abroad in the Middle East because she has been studying Arabic and learning about the region since freshman year. Julie is a geek for colonial/postcolonial studies, and was naturally intrigued by Morocco’s long colonial history. She also was interested in the opportunity to ride a camel to school, join a harem, and drink fruit juice while studying in Morocco.


                                                                                                                                        Photo Credit: Janice Byth

Julie enjoys the laid back culture in Morocco. For example, she describes the streets of the medina: “they may be crowded and bustling, but no one seems to be particular in a hurry, except me when I’m late to school”. She also enjoys the culture of community in the medina, where she lives with her homestay.  Julie can’t walk anywhere without her host sister running into and greeting at least a handful of people.  She prefers Rabat’s tram over Boston’s T, and enjoys how cheap everything is because you can get a sandwich for $0.70! Julie’s favorite Moroccan dish is tagine. Julie reminisced about a tagine she had in Meknes; “The meat fell right off the bone and melted in your mouth and the added sweetness of the prunes just made it heaven.”

    When she is not studying Arabic, eating tagines or searching for camels to ride to school, she enjoys watching TV and movies. She also likes to read books such as Game of Thrones, sing karaoke, whether or not she’s in the appropriate setting, and playing video games. Julie acts as well, but saying that makes her feel pretentious…

Around Rabat

Rabat Beach


CIEE and Moroccan Students playing on the beach.

Photo credit: Janice Byth

    Rabat has a lovely beach located about a 10-minute walk from the medina, or old city. There are cafes to relax, drink coffee, and numerous surf schools, making it a year round destination for Moroccans and travellers alike.  CIEE and Moroccan students recently had a potluck brunch there.  They spent the morning munching on food, drinking juice, and enjoying the sand. They played soccer, tossed frisbees and played paddleball. 



Enjoy a post from current student Vera Lochtefeld of St. Olaf College. You can follow her blog at:

February 1st, 2015

It’s a lovely day here in Morocco. The sun is shining, the clouds are white and puffy, and the palm trees are swaying gently in the breeze. I think that it snowed most places in the US this week, but here it feels like Wisconsin in April. Only with more couscous, and less beer.

It’s been a whirlwind. It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was in Minnesota, having brunch in Uptown. In the past six days I have moved to a new country, been taken into a new family, and started a new language. It’s not bad, considering the time constraints. There is so much that I don’t really know where to begin, except at the beginning, which all around seems like the best option.

I arrived in Morocco on Monday, having experienced remarkably seamless travel and astonishingly good airplane food. Seriously, Air France is the way to go. There ended up being a bunch of CIEE students on my last leg, and so we got to know each other a bit before even landing. We are currently 14 students in total, with one more arriving in February. The group is smaller than originally planned, but it is a nice size: small enough to know everyone, large enough for some internal mobility. We all spent a brief 48 hours in a hotel on the main avenue of Rabat, where I had this view:


It wasn’t the worst welcome.

Since taking that photo, I have moved into my homestay, one of the experiences that drove me to study with CIEE. My nuclear family consists of 5 people; mom, dad, two sisters, and a brother, who no longer lives at home. However, it would be naive to think that my family is restricted to this one apartment. As far as I can tell, I have an endless number of new relatives, all perfectly happy to welcome me. I speak French with all of them, plus the few phrases of Moroccan Colloquial Arabic (Darija) that I have managed to pick up in the past few days. They are wonderful, welcoming people, and are very patient as I try and figure out how to live here. They also give me LOTS of food, including couscous:


And mint tea, otherwise known as deliciously sweet and refreshing ambrosia which would drink by the gallon if only it were socially acceptable:


And about this many Clementines:


I took that picture in Casablanca yesterday. Citrus is in season, and life is good.

Regular classes have yet to start, but I have hurdled headlong into a Colloquial Arabic intensive, made all the more intense by the fact that I have no background in Classical Arabic. Five hours a day, five days a week, and it turns my brain to mush. I imagine this is what trying to drink from a fire hose feels like. But I can get things here and there, and the rest will come.

Beyond that, much of this week has been trying to find my feet in a new culture. I have happily indulged in all the tourist-y things, but have also been on a steep learning curve concerning public transportation, languages, and practical logistics. I have already learned a lot: light the gas if you want hot water, nearly all the light switches are at knee level, and if you want to cross the road, just walk in between the speeding cars. They’ll almost always stop.

I can already feel myself putting down roots in a new country.There is too much to write about all of it. I’ve already put a pile of photos on Facebook, and have still more that didn’t make the cut but I can’t yet bear to get rid of. I will come home in May (don’t panic, please, Mom), but I can tell that Morocco is going to be a special place for me.