Our last Newsletter comes from Naz Akyol of Brown University. Originally from Ankara, Turkey, Naz has been in the U.S. for about two years studying International Relations in Providence, Rhode Island. When she is not in class at the CIEE Study Center in Rabat, you can probably find her around town talking politics, in the hammam, or talking politics in the hammam! Thanks Naz for sending us out of 2015!
The month of December, despite the usual festive connotations it has, is a bittersweet time for CIEE students since it marks the countdown for the last couple of weeks of our time in Rabat. As the semester snowballs to an end –and not literally because finding snow in Rabat is probably as likely as finding yourself hungry in a Moroccan household-, this month becomes a time of reflection and wondering how three months went by so quickly. However, it’s important to make the most of a good thing while it is still lasting, so for CIEE students, December is still full of wonderful new study abroad experiences as well as a chance to re-visit some old favorites.
Without much further ado, here are some highlights from the last month on site: a magical day-trip up north that left us wanting more, the second edition of the African Dance workshop that made us more sore the next day than we 20-somethings would like to admit, and an amazing Thanksgiving potluck where the food gave us more than enough to be thankful for.
The CIEE Thanksgiving potluck at the center was a huge success with a giant tray of rafisa courtesy of one of the CIEE buddies’ mom, a chicken that substituted well for a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and deviled eggs made by our very own CIEE students to stay true to the traditions of an American Thanksgiving, and a table and a half of delicious deserts made or brought by the students and buddies. We ate, we listened to early Christmas music (hey it’s totally fair game to listen to Christmas music starting from Thanksgiving) and we had a grand old time chatting and laughing together. The CIEE Thanksgiving potluck was certainly something to be thankful for.
Asilah and Tangiers Excursion:
The last CIEE excursion of the semester was our day trip up to Tangiers and Asilah. Many students were worried that the eight-hour drive there and back was going to make the day consist mostly of driving and not a lot of fun sightseeing. However, when we got to Tangiers around noon, the beautiful view of the Mediterranean and the serenity of this tourist destination in its off-season made up for the whole waking up at 7am and being in a bus for four hours thing
Tangiers treated us very well as we got to tour the city with our guide for an hour, taking photos at some high up lookout points with magnificent views of the port of Tangiers and the marina that is being built with the coast of Spain visible across the water. We walked through a fish market that was a sensory overload by all means and we strolled through the April 9 Square.
We had lunch at “Darna”, a women’s cooperative where the people were kind and the food was abundant. Then, we hopped on the bus foranother hour to get to Asilah.We only had an hour in Asilah, but it was enough for it to enchant us with its natural beauty and laid-back, peaceful, artsy vibe. With its colorful murals, long promenade, Portuguese architecture and cute little boutiques, Asilah was one of the destinations that we all agreed would go on our list of places to stop by when we visit Morocco in the future.
African Dance Workshop:
After not many could attend the first African Dance Workshop at the Orient-Occident Foundation, CIEE organized a second round and almost all students were in attendance. We. Broke. A. Sweat. Trying to imitate our dance instructors’ impossible moves while trying to keep tempo with the beat from the two drums that expertly accompanied our clumsiness, we spent over and hour practicing a Congolese routine that -it is safe to say- we came close to mastering in our own way by the end of the session.
The ease and elegance with which our instructor moved through the various positions in no way reflected the amount of sweat and incoordination the rest of us were dealing with. Although everyone in the room was smiling and laughing by the time we reached the free styling portion at the end, the next day, the stairs up to the CIEE office were a bigger struggle than they had ever been before.
Student of the Month:
The student of the month for December is Sarah Willey from Connecticut. Sarah goes to Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana. As our time here comes to an end, I talked to Sarah about reflecting on the past three months, some highlights and challenges of studying abroad in Rabat, some of her goals and how they changed from the beginning of the semester to now. I also talked to Sarah about some of her favorite places around the study center to grab a quick bite and learned a little bit about her experience making the famous Moroccan dish couscous, a skill of hers that is at the top of the list of why she is student of the month!
Sarah’s favorite part of studying abroad has been spending time with her host family. A highlight has definitely been spending our week-long Winter Break here in Rabat instead of traveling because during that one week she got to spend quality time with her host family and especially her host siblings, really getting to know them and form relationships.
Sarah also volunteers with the kids at Orient-Occident Foundation and has an art workshop with them every Wednesday, which she says has been one of the highlights of studying abroad in Rabat. A challenge, on the other hand, has certainly been code-switching for Sarah, as she never quite shows which language she will be spoken to in, or which language to instinctively respond with. While improving her French was a primary goal for her when she first started the program, she is surprised and delighted to see how her goals have shifted and she has put most of her energy towards mastering and practicing Darija for the past three months.
Sarah’s favorite Moroccan dishes are pastilla, the fried pastry that is traditionally filled with pigeon meat, but these days can be found with any kind of spiced meat and vegetable filling, and with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, and zalouk, a kind of eggplant dip. She says that although nothing can beat her host mom’s homemade zalouk, La Fournee from across the street has decent pastillas that are perhaps not the most authentically Moroccan versions of the dish, but are worth a taste.
Sarah has learned how to make couscous at her host family’s home. She started off by watching it be made, then moved up a level to helping with peeling vegetables. Once, she even made it completely by herself. She says she will hopefully have another shot at making the whole thing before she leaves in order to perfect her craft. Sarah has enjoyed traveling around Morocco very much and her favorite cities are Chefchouen, where the group had amazing organic couscous at a local restaurant, and Essouira, the cute little port town in the Southwest.