Speak the Language, Meet the Locals, Embrace Your Time Past Review

By (International Political Economy, University of Puget Sound) - abroad from 08/30/2015 to 12/11/2015 with

SIT Study Abroad: Morocco - Multiculturalism and Human Rights

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how I best absorb languages, and now know that I need to travel more to keep working on my Arabic. I learned that I loved challenging myself to meet new people and go to new places, even if it was scary at first. I learned that while I won't always agree with everyone I meet socially, religiously, or politically, it is important to travel and see the world in order to broaden your perspectives.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Academic rigor on this program varies. Depending on what Arabic class you are in, you might or might not be challenged. My professor was outstanding, but that might not have been every student's experience. The thematic Human Rights seminars were set into modules, and new guest lecturers came in to speak to us every day. This is very good for exposure to many topics and useful to pick an advisor for your ISP, but was a hard way for me to learn. I was not academically challenged on this program, however, most of the learning you will do in any study abroad program will not be in the classroom.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff of the CCCL were fantastic. All of them were incredibly kind, and went above and beyond to help us in any way possible. Taieb and Nawal were always available for us to talk to if we were having problems with our classes, host families, language skills, etc. However, the CCCL is understaffed and Taieb and Nawal have to do too much for the students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my host family immensely. They had only hosted one other student before me, and were very thrilled to have me staying with them. I became very close to my host sisters, who were close in age to me and spoke English. They helped me learn Fusha and Darija, and were able to explain the grammatical intricacies of Arabic and help me with my language homework. My host family was fairly well off monetarily, and had no problems feeding me elaborate meals or taking me on trips with them. However, I acknowledge that this was not everyone's experience. Some families were not monetarily secure and needed their host students for income, creating an environment in which students were not entirely welcomed. Others didn't speak any English, which makes communication very difficult if the student doesn't have much experience with Arabic or French.

* Food:

The food in Morocco is amazing!!! Chicken tagines, fried bread off street carts, fresh fruit from the market, and loads of nuts that you can buy in bulk for practically nothing! I really enjoyed almost all of my food experiences. My brother worked for the Maritime Ministry, so we almost always had fresh fish and my family had dozens of chickens on our roof, so we had eggs and chicken frequently. Both of my sisters were amazing chefs, and I ate like royalty for the whole semester. Mint tea will be consumed with almost every meal. I highly recommend trying svenge, which is a Moroccan doughnut. They cost 1 dirham (10 cents) on the street.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt decently integrated with the local culture, but less so with the people. It was pretty easy to adjust to the way of life there (long tea breaks and afternoon snacks aren't too challenging to get used to), but that doesn't mean that it's very easy to integrate into local society. If you don't know how to speak Arabic or French, it will be very difficult to converse with locals. It will benefit you to know as much Arabic as possible before you, and try to pick up Darija as fast as possible once you get there.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Though I didn't have any medical issues, many of the students on my program needed to go to the hospital for a variety of reasons. Healthcare is not overly expensive or inaccessible, but don't expect the care to be as good as in the US, and expect to be spoken to in French.

* Safety:

Overall, Rabat is very safe. It is a large university town, as well as being the capital city. Students live in the medina, which is the old walled city, and can be confusing to get around. Once you learn the streets, it is important to be observant about your surroundings to prevent tripping on things on the streets (they are very crowded) or getting mugged. When you are out at night, employ general safety tactics, like looking down a street before you walk down it, not keeping your phone out, and always looking like you know where you are going. Though street harassment can be emotionally taxing, if you don't engage with the harassers and try to make minimal eye contact with men on the street, you are unlikely to find yourself in a dangerous situation. It is always possible to run to a police officer and get protection or speak to a CCCL staff member, who will take you to the police station if you need to report anything.

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

I would do this program again because I feel that I got a few really important things out of it. 1) a loving host family who wanted me to have the best possible experience 2) an Arabic professor who was thrilled to be teaching me and an opportunity to learn the language from locals 3) time to travel independently in a foreign country 4) a small group of friends from other US universities that I keep in touch with

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)

5 The exchange rate of dollars-dirhams is great. There are about 10 dirhams to every dollar, and it's fairly easy to go out to a casual restaurant and only spend 30-50 dirhams on a meal. Since you eat most of your meals at school and with your host family, additional costs are very minimal, and at each student's discretion.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 20 dollars maximum every week

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

Though the program overall was not incredibly encouraging, my specific Arabic instructor was amazing. He taught to my skill level, gave me as much attention as I needed, and was willing to answer my questions as many times as I needed to understand. He really cared about whether we were both learning and enjoying(!!!) the language. He made sure to play games with us (like Telephone, Hot Seat, and Hangman), and came us with unique ways to keep class interesting. He gave us practical experience by teaching us how to speak Darija to use with our families, and took us to coffee shops and to the markets to buy snacks. I will miss him quite a lot, he was the best language instructor I have ever had. He made me feel so comfortable speaking the language and never made me feel ashamed to make a mistake.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Arabic 102
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? Use it every day, all the time! Speak it in class, with your friends, with your host families, to people you meet on the street. Ask everyone what everything is called and repeat it until you get it. Embrace every second you have there, because it will be easiest to learn the language when you are surrounded with hundreds of people who speak it natively.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • My host family
  • My Arabic professor
  • Time for traveling
* What could be improved?
  • The academic rigor
  • The response to gender violence
  • The lack of housing consistency
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had known that not all host families will be the same. That sexual harassment can be really challenging to deal with, especially emotionally. That I wasn't going to be challenged academically. That I would not like many of the other students on my program, and that I would feel like my values or world view were going to be attacked every time I stepped into the classroom.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'