Hello, my name is Aicha and I am studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco for the Summer. Today marks my first full week in Rabat. While it has only been a week, it feels much longer, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every waking moment! From being picked up at the airport to meeting my host family to attending orientation and meeting my peers to beginning my classes, I have gone through all emotions of excitement, confusion, exhaustion and curiosity.
After a long flight, I arrived at the Sale International Airport in Rabat at noon and was welcomed with a CIEE sign and a bright smile from one of the CIEE staff. Before seeing this sign, I did not know what to expect. I was preparing for anything and right when I saw that smile, I felt that instant sense of comfort and welcoming to Rabat. About a half hour later, I met my host family for the first time. Up until that moment, I had no information about my family for the next two months, thus there was a great sense of mystery that consumed me. As I often do, I tried to picture how they would be like before arriving but mainly hope that they would be nice.
After meeting my family, they exceeded my expectations. Meeting with my host mom, there was a sense of instant connection, where I felt that I could confide in her for anything. This quality is something that I have noticed about all the Moroccans I have met in the past week. After meeting someone, I always feel that instant connection and sense of comfort, almost like I have known them my whole life. In turn, making it very easy to hold conversations and talk to people about almost anything.
At sundown the same night, I had a big dinner for the breaking of the fast called Iftar with the family and students from another program. I made many observations about the family and noticed how everyone appeared so close and loving. Everything seemed very collective, and not individualist, which is something you do not often see in the U.S. I arrived during a special time in Morocco, Ramadan and I am fortunate to get the opportunity to try the special foods of Ramadan. (see picture)
For the next two days, CIEE held orientation for the students within Moroccan studies and Arabic Language program. I got to meet my other peers and the staff of CIEE. We covered all topics stemming from logistics of how to withdraw money to managing the streets of Morocco. We also received brief tours from local college students, whom we call buddies and got to hear about Morocco from the perspective of students our age. I really appreciated that nothing was held back during orientation, and it made me feel more prepared taking on Morocco.
In addition, we began our Arabic classes after day two of orientation. When I explain that I have acquired more information in two sessions than I have over the course of half a semester in the U.S. it is an understatement. The professor has such a great way of explaining and providing connections to concepts, that I finally feel that I understand how things work in the Arabic language. And I am excited to learn more over the course of the next two months.
These first few days in Morocco have been an adjustment period and culture shock which I would not change for the world. I highly encourage anyone thinking of studying abroad to go for it! It is such as great experience, that cannot be summed up in words, that I believe everyone should have.