Natnael Petros talks about his wonderful experience studying abroad in Morocco.

It has been my dream to study abroad as an undergraduate, and I’m very grateful that I fulfilled this dream last semester. I wanted to study abroad in a country I had never been to before and where I could practice my French. There are many French speaking countries, so I had plenty of choices. I wanted to go to a place that is far, different, and completely new to me. After much research, I realized Morocco might be that place and decided to go there. For me, it was the perfect choice. I loved every minute of the time I spent in the magnificent country of Morocco from the time I arrived, to the last day of my stay! The medinas were fun to walk around in; the historical sites were inspiring to see; the scenery was amazingly beautiful, and the time I spent with my host family was simply wonderful.

Morocco has a very diverse feel to it; the far north is rich with Spanish influence, and the south with the Arabian culture. Every day was an adventure full of surprises and picturesque memories. In addition to immersing myself in my French and Arabic studies, I enjoyed the leisurely activities Morocco had to offer such as mountain climbing, swimming at the beach, and even skiing. trekking and camping out in the Sahara was one of the many highlights of my trip. Waking up early to watch the sunrise, with flavorful chai (tea) at hand, was truly breathtaking.

Study_Abroad_in_MoroccoMorocco has many languages. Arabic is the official language and Amazigh (Berber) recently became an official language too. French is spoken at large due to the colonial influence. Spanish influence in the north is quite evident due to close proximity to Spain. The most common spoken language, however, is Darija (Moroccan Arabic). With all these languages, it’s really easy to get lost in translation. Mastering all of these languages is daunting, to say the least. It’s amazing how the many Moroccans I met can easily switch from speaking Darija to French or Arabic. My host sister, for example, speaks fluent English and Darija, and is learning to speak French in school, and she’s only 4 years old. multi-lingual is the norm. That’s such a culture shock to an American, since most people in the US only speak English. When traveling abroad, English-speaking travelers may have less difficulty being understood since English is spoken commonly across the globe. However, that wasn’t the case for me in Morocco, so I constantly tried to use French, Arabic, and Darija to quickly assimilate to the culture. I loved it because it challenged me to use new words and phrases that I learned quickly from my new family and the locals.

Studying abroad in Morocco was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed getting lost in the medinas, eating amazing food, and visiting many cities and landmarks, but my best experience abroad was living with my host family. I lived in a family compound, where all my host family’s extended relatives live, ate, prayed, and watched football (soccer) together. It was always festive in my host home. I was there for birthdays, anniversaries, one funeral, an engagement party, all of the big football games, and lastly for my goodbye party. It was a large family, but I was able to bond with each member one way or another. I learned the Moroccan culture, and what it’s like to live as a Moroccan. I know if I return to Morocco Insha’Allah (God willing), I have a family and a home to return to. What I learned from them and the rest of my experiences in Morocco will always be part of me.

This piece appeared in the International Studies Program Newsletter September 1, 2014 edition.

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