Don't Be Stupid and You'll Learn a Lot Past Review

By (RTVF/MENA, Northwestern University) - abroad from 08/30/2015 to 12/12/2015 with

SIT Study Abroad: Morocco - Multiculturalism and Human Rights

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Just living in a culture that's so vastly different from American culture changes the way you look at the world. The lifestyle becomes a part of you, and you'll find yourself getting angry at the news for portraying the Muslim world in such a simplistic and usually inaccurate way. Learning to understand perspectives that in many ways oppose your own will deeply change you as a person.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academic rigor of the Human Rights and Research Ethics and Methods classes was practically nonexistent due to the lack of organization of the classes. The module system meant that learning was disjointed and the classes held no momentum. There were some interesting modules and some great speakers, in which I did learn things. These classes were also excellent for connecting students with mentors for their projects. Arabic instruction was intensive and the program does its best to accommodate every student's individual needs (if asked). I had a private instructor.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Nawal and Taieb are just two incredible individuals who care deeply about the students and actively work to make the program fit their needs.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The room/board rate does not reflect the quality of housing. Some students will find living with a homestay family to be challenging. However, I found it to be one of the most rewarding parts of my experience. Homestay is how you learn the language and form connections with the community. The only issue I had was that there is a large chunk of the room/board rate that I assume goes to the fancy hotels and food we enjoy during the excursions-- I'd like to have the choice to spend less and save on these excursions.

* Food:

Ibrahim, the CCCL cook, is a wonderful man. That said, the lunch food itself isn't great and I'd prefer a stipend the way AMIDEAST does it. However, the members of my host family were all exceptional cooks, so I ate really well most of the time.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This takes a lot of effort and discomfort, but it's possible to feel pretty integrated. However, I was here for a total of 6 months, so it might be more difficult to accomplish in just 4. Most people did not feel this way, so I know my experience isn't representative of the average experience.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Nawal was so helpful when I was dealing with a bacterial gut infection. She accompanied me to find doctors and specialists. She was also always available to talk whenever I was having mental health issues. However, the quality of care available in the country isn't the same as what's available in America, so think twice about coming if you have a serious condition or chronic condition that requires a lot of care.

* Safety:

Rabat as a whole is a pretty safe city, and I never ran into any trouble living there for half a year. However, many of my friends have had phones stolen, and muggings are a possibility (as they are anywhere). Street harassment can be unpleasant to deal with, especially at first, but I did adjust after a while, and I think it made me stronger as a person. However, expect it and expect it to be hard-- especially if you're a woman or a person of color.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

While the momentum and organization of the courses is practically nonexistent, SIT does provide important resources for the ISP-- connections. I ended up living with and documenting a travelling circus based in Les Anciens Abattoirs in Casablanca thanks to a program connection, and that was definitely one of the most incredible experiences of my life. SIT as an institute isn't very in touch with the local administration, and the length of the program inherently makes it difficult to reach the last stage of cultural adjustment (which requires 6 months), so some parts of the experience can feel like they only scratch the surface. Ultimately, it's up to you to get the most out of it.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Morocco is a cheap country if you're on an American budget.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I spent 50-100 on eating out, other expenses, and travel (which was the biggest chunk)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Know what is meant for tourists and what is meant for Moroccans-- and eat at places meant for Moroccans. Travel is tourism-oriented. If you travel, you inevitably become a tourist and spend money on tourist-oriented things. That's fine, but just be aware of that.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

Fusha and darija are different languages. Darija I was encouraged to use a lot on a daily basis in communication. However, fusha is not spoken, and I only used it in class. There aren't a lot of incentives beyond self-motivation to use either, but there are a lot of opportunities.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had started Al-Kitaab 3.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? You can't learn darija without being in a darija-speaking environment, because it's primarily a spoken language. If you have a good base in fusha, that helps a lot. But in general, there will be a significant language barrier unless you have at least two years of experience in Arabic-- more is better. French is fine for communication.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Host Family
  • Hotel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Living with the circus
  • My youngest host sister
  • The pace of life
* What could be improved?
  • SIT-CCCL communication
  • The fees (tuition probably mostly goes to SIT)
  • Classes
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I feel like I was well-prepared, but when people didn't it's because they didn't know what to expect, or spoke minimal Arabic.