I spent the Spring 2014 semester of my junior year studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco. It had never occurred to me to go there--I was looking at countries in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and one program in England--until I discovered the Field Study in Journalism and New Media program through SIT Study Abroad that's based there. As a Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts major, I couldn't find a program that fit me any better. Despite knowing nothing about the country, it soon became clear to me that it was Morocco or Bust.
Although a bit nerve-wracking, the application process was quite simple and I was grateful to have so many people and resources to help coach me through it. Peggy Imai in the Study Abroad Office patiently answered my frantic emails and dealt with my initial indecisiveness about where I wanted to go (we discussed several countries on every continent except Antarctica). My academic advisor, Traci Griffith, helped me list the pros and cons between Morocco and England, my final two choices (I distinctly remember her laughing and saying, "Come on, between THOSE two? It should be obvious...you KNOW where you want to go!" She was right). She and Professor Sultze wrote recommendation letters for me, and plenty of other professors, faculty and friends listened to hours of nervous and excited chatter about all of the possibilities I had waiting for me. Once I got accepted into my program, I decided to take my LSC history requirement that fall before leaving--I enjoyed Professor O'Neil's lectures on the Modern Middle East, which included much discussion about the North African region I'd soon begin calling home.
SIT is a much different experience than your average college classroom, and I'm so happy for that. There's a joke among SIT alumni that it's the ONLY way to study abroad, and I have to agree. Rather than going to another college or university in a new city (which is exciting enough, don't get me wrong--plenty of my friends have done more traditional programs and loved every second of them), SIT allows students to truly become immersed in the new place by quite literally using the world as its classroom. SIT prides itself on its field-work based programs in countries that aren't traditionally popular among study abroad destinations. The field work allows you to really bond with the community on a personal level and become connected with the culture in a way that traditional classroom learning can't.
While in Morocco, I remained a Saint Mike's blogger, but simply relocated to the Study Abroad Blogs page of the website--just as I had physically relocated from Vermont to Rabat. I gave my page a Moroccan-themed makeover, and called it "My Mosaic." The title was inspired by something my program coordinator, Badrdine, told me and my brand new friends on our first day in Morocco: "The more confused you are, the more you understand Morocco...it's a mosaic; it's not a melting pot." I'm so glad I wrote down what he said, because it's the truest thing I could say if I had to wrap up my experience in just one sentence.
In Rabat, I went to school at a learning center 5 days a week for about two months. During that time I lived with a beautiful host family, whose love I still cannot describe with the limit of language. The admiration I have for them is a deep feeling that can only be experienced with the soul, much like the way our nonverbal communication was more clear to me in ways that I couldn't have imagined were possible without spoken conversation. After school ended, my program's small family of 11 students from all over the US began our ISJ: the Independent Study in Journalism, the project that SIT assigned for us as our field work. I moved into an apartment on the other side of Rabat with a few friends and spent the next month and a half reporting on a topic of my choice. The friend I partnered up with and I created a multimedia package on illegitimate children, an issue that opened our eyes to other various pieces of the mosaic within Morocco. One day, we were being escorted to a judge's office in a spacious Parliament building; the next, we were walking down the narrow dirt streets of a city slum with an ill young woman trying her best to take care of her kids.
I lived in Morocco from January 26th to May 10th, 2014. In that short amount of time, I gained a new family, new friends, new perspectives, and new experiences. I lived in a city that is WAY bigger than Burlington. I rented my first apartment. I learned to speak "shwiya Arabia." I learned to read in French. I learned to communicate using a very strange mixture of Arabic, Spanish, French, English, local dialect and hand gestures. I learned not to speak at all, and instead to watch and listen. I became a journalist.http://www.trust.org/item/20150402163534-qousp/?source=quickview I became a "true Moroccan," according to a host brother. I became an adventurer. I grew up.
|Some friends adventuring in the Merzouga Sahara|
|My beautiful Birta host sister Amina changed my life even though I lived with her for only a week.|
I could say a lot more about Morocco. I have said a lot already, though, and as I've mentioned in a previous post: this was My Mosaic. Everyone's is different. I love sharing mine, but you know where to find me if you ever want me to hear yours.
Check out these cool study abroad links below.
SMC Study Abroad Program List
Info for Returnees
SMC Study Abroad Blogs
My #Morocco Posts: everything I wrote for My Mosaic while studying abroad (the most recent one shows up first)
Reporting Morocco: the website I worked on with students in my program
More Morocco blogs from other friends in my program: