This summer I participated in the Arabic Language and Culture Study Abroad Program through the University of Minnesota. As a part of this program, I lived and studied in Fes, Morocco for six and a half weeks. While in Fes I lived with a host family and another participant in the program. I studied Modern Standard Arabic at the Arabic Language Institute in Fes (ALIF).
Interacting with my host family and the local community was the most challenging and rewarding part of my experience. Most Moroccans do not speak English (including my host family), so for the first few weeks I depended on my research, roommate, and an Arabic crash course to get me through family meals and shopping trips in the old medina. Being immersed in the Arabic language all day everyday made learning the language much easier. As soon as my Arabic starting improving, my ability to understand and learn about Moroccan culture also grew. I was able to learn not only about the local customs and culture, but also about Moroccan history and the Arab Spring. My host family and the faculty at ALIF were enthusiastic to share Morocco's rich culture with me, including Morocco's strong sense of community, Islamic foundation, and love of food.
While in Morocco, I often visited the old medina, which was built around the 9th century. Many of the old walls and gates once used to protect the city are still intact, making you feel like you have stepped back in time. When I wasn't bartering for shoes, dodging donkeys or eating delicious Moroccan food, I was traveling with our group to various parts of Morocco, including Casablanca, Marrakech, Chefchaouen, and the Sahara Desert. Moroccans are such warm and welcoming people that by the end of the program, I had felt like I had really become part of the community. They knowledge I gained from this experience has not only been helpful in Morocco, but also during my clinical rotations this year in the BSHP Program. Studying abroad has taught me a lot about myself, along with the importance of a little patience, motivation and an open-mind.