Kim Studies in Fez, Morocco (Political Science & Global Studies major)

My name is Kim Wilson. I am a Political Science and Global Studies major, and I studied in Fez, Morocco in Fall of 2013. I wanted to get an experience abroad where I could practice my language that I was studying which is Arabic. I wanted to go to an Arabic speaking country and just get immersed in the language, have it all around me and get a taste for the culture. I had never been out of the country before, so I just had no idea what I was getting myself into, and going to somewhere like Morocco as your very first destination is kind of crazy. The program exceeded my expectations, especially academically. The Arabic Language Institute in Fez where you study is just amazing. The teachers there are so good. I learned so much Arabic. I just couldn’t even believe how good the program was academically. All of my Arabic classes had a maximum of three students in them. We could just stop the class at any time and go over things extensively that we didn’t understand, or we could just speed things along if we felt like it. Just getting to speak a lot, because you’re in class for four hours every day, just Arabic class and in that environment with so few students, you can really get a lot of practice. There’s a new Fez and there’s an old Fez, and the new Fez is kind of more European, I think it was originally built by the French. So old Fez, which I recommend you choose to live there because that’s really where the experience is at. It’s hundreds of years old. The housing is very different from here. It’s kind of more like condo-style. There aren’t individual homes. It wasn’t hard to settle into my host family because it was very comfortable there. They always gave me everything that I needed and I felt very welcomed in the family setting. I had a mother, a father, I think three sisters, one brother, and two nephews, who all lived in this house together. It was wild, there were always a lot of people over. Adjusting to the city was a little bit interesting. The easiest way was to take a taxi, and it was very cheap, less than a dollar each way. Just learning how to tell the taxi driver how to get to school, because if you tried to say it in Arabic, they didn’t understand you. You had to say it in French, and I don’t speak French so I had to learn that. I actually got to volunteer at a girl’s shelter. I would go to this shelter on the weekends and help this Moroccan girl who lived there with her English homework. It was kind of hard at first because she didn’t want to have a tutor come and make her do homework, and it’s understandable at that age. I think she was sixteen. But just getting to connect with her and then hearing that she was upset when I was gone on a weekend trip one time, and I wasn’t there, she didn’t want to work with anybody but me. That was just kind of fun that we developed that relationship. I think my absolute favorite part of it was just going shopping in the Old Medina, and it is terrifying at first because you have to figure out how to bargain. It’s a fun challenge just to interact with people in that way. It’s interesting because you can sense that they really respect you when you show them that Hey you can speak the language and you know what you’re doing, it’s just kind of fun so I think shopping was a really interesting part in a way that I never would have imagined. I think this program is really best for someone who really wants to go to learn Arabic. I don’t think you should go there if you’re not really committed to learning Arabic. And then you just have to be really open to new cultures, because the culture there is vastly different. So just being open-minded to different ways that people live around the world and being respectful of that, and interested in learning about it.

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