Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Authored by:
Sheila H.

It's my last day in Morocco and as I write this, I reminisce on all of the experiences I've had, all of the people I've met, and all of the lessons I've learned. In just eight weeks, I've developed strong relationships with friends and my host family, I've travelled to different parts of the country, and I've learned how to communicate in a different language. I have so much to be thankful for and if it weren't for CIEE's staff and program in Rabat, this experience wouldn't have been the same. Here is a sneak peek into my daily life during these eight weeks:

Since I was a part of the Arabic Language program, I had Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) classes for three hours a day in the morning, five days a week. Every week, we had to give a presentation on different cultural aspects of Morocco (i.e. marriage, education system, immigration, and women's rights) and use our host family and other Moroccans that we knew as resources. In the afternoon, three to four times a week we had Darija class for two hours. Darija is the Arabic dialect spoken in Morocco and this class allowed us to see how Darija is influenced by MSA, French, and Spanish and to practice it in the street with native Moroccans. After a whole day of class, oftentimes my friends and I went to a café to take the time to talk about topics such as love, marriage, and religion. This had to be my favorite part of the day because for the first time in a long time, I was able to have deep conversations with friends without having to worry about time. Unlike the U.S., in Morocco, time doesn't dictate your day, rather you dictate what you do with your time. Consequently, because I was so engrossed in conversation with my American and Moroccan friends, I ended up spending significantly less time on my phone, a habit which I hope to continue in the U.S. Finally, as dinner time approaches, we each headed back to our host families, where we were fed traditional Moroccan meals and spent time getting to know our families. I felt so blessed to have been placed in my host family where I have three host sisters because in the U.S., I have two brothers and I have always wanted to experience having a sister, and I did! They did my nails, did my hair, we did karaoke and danced together, and went out to the market together as well. Aside from having great host sisters, my host parents were phenomenal too! My host mom taught me how to cook a few dishes and my host dad helped me with my Arabic a lot! I look forward to going to the park with them tonight for the last time, for they made me feel like a part of the family since the first day.

Another big part of my experience were the trips that CIEE planned for us. It was during these trips that us students got closer to each other and to our program leaders. We had day trips to cities such as طنجة (Tangiers) and مكناس (Meknes), but in my opinion, the best trips were the overnight ones such as مراكش (Marrakech) and شفشاون  (Chefchaouen). Not only did we experience seeing beautiful sights and historical sit together, but we also experienced the hardships of intense heat and long hikes together. As someone who is not used to going on hikes, I was very thankful for having classmates that were patient with me and that offered a helping hand when I needed one. 

All in all, I will be coming back to the United States with a better idea of who I am and what my goals are. ان شاء الله, God willing, I will come back to Morocco to improve my Arabic and eventually become an Arabic teacher.

Thank you for reading! 
​Sheila Hernandez

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