Study Abroad in
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.
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”. Moreover, 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.
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.
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”.
One 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!
Please find the link below to Dr. Ashanté M. Reese's reflection as a faculty leader on a trip with Spelman students to experience Morocco CIEE Rabat-style!
CIEE SCENE / Rabat / 1 June 20166
The students arrived to Rabat on Monday, May 23. They immediately started to experience Moroccan culture on the first day of their arrival as they were being transferred from the airport to their host families. The orientation sessions started on Tuesday and the students were welcomed to set their personal expectations, introduced to the homestay experience as well as other crucial components of the CIEE program. It was the opportunity to share with students how they will benefit from it through learning the language and the host culture. After that, the students learned basics about Morocco including buying SIM cards for their phones, facilities for money exchange and how to use transportation in Morocco. Moreover, the students had the chance to explore the old medina to get the sense of the local culture and start first steps towards experiencing the new culture. The day was concluded with a delicious dinner at one of the best traditional restaurants in Rabat.
From Wednesday to Friday, Students were introduced to the language situation in Morocco. They were very eager to learn in both Darija and Modern classical Arabic and start engaging with their host families in small talks in an attempt to practice the words and phrases they have been learning throughout the week. Classes started on both languages, along with other cultural courses facilitated by the Resident Director Madiha. The aforementioned period of time also included the logistical tour and the scavenger hunt where all students and cultural peers connected with each other and started building friendships. The aforementioned activities also paved the way for the students to familiarize with the setting and their surrounding environment.
On Saturday, some students attended Mawazine Festival in Rabat. This festival aims at promoting openness to cultures by offering the public a musical journey where Morocco is changed into a melting pot of different music and those attending have an opportunity to appreciate the world’s musical cultural heritage. Whilst some students attended the musical festival, others preferred to seize the opportunity and stay with their host families so as to know them more and spend some quality time with them in an attempt to assimilate more within the realms of the Moroccan society.
On Sunday morning, students embarked a day trip to Casablanca and visited the third largest Mosque in the world. The Hassan II Mosque is a beautiful building of marble towering over the Atlantic Ocean. Students enjoyed the beautiful weather, place and have great moments exploring the area. And everyone is lucky to take a walk in the old medina located in the heart of the city. It was interesting to compare both the modern and traditional parts of Casablanca especially when students visited the Mall, which according to some Moroccans is the biggest in Africa.
Author: Haddou EL Bour