Click the link above to read one of our students get sentimental about his time studying in Rabat, Morocco and why you should go overseas too.
“Okay, Will, now just step out into the street and hail one of those cabs.”
“No, no. Further out. Like, in the middle of the road.”
“Won’t I get hit?”
“No, you’ll be fine, don’t worry. Do you remember what to say?”
“Uhh…yeah, I think so.”
Just like my professor said, I stepped out into the road, and as a blue taxicab bent around the corner, I stuck out my hand and waved it around. Sure enough, the driver stopped and opened the passenger window and blurted out something in French. I, not knowing French at all, decided to disregard whatever his comment or question was entirely and ask him the following:
“Yumkinuka an tawassalana ileh madrasat kalam wa lawh, ‘aafak?”
The driver then motioned my professor, my classmates and me into his car, and drove off toward our school…or, at least I hoped. Aside from my Arabic professors and teaching assistants at IU, I had never spoken to a native Arabic speaker before, and I had no idea if what I said was actually clear or coherent at all. Maybe for the past two years everyone just pretended they could understand my Arabic to make me feel good.
Who knows, but looks like we were about to find out.
After a moment, I happened to see that the taxi’s meter wasn’t running. I had been warned that cab drivers would keep the meter off by default and try to scam tourists into paying an extra buck for their rides. Luckily, I’m smart and came prepared with a phrase I was told would stop these world-class con artists right in their tracks.
“’Aafak shagghal al ‘adaad,” I said with the confidence of someone saying something in a foreign language that for all he knew could have been extremely insulting, but to whom saving like $2.00 was worth risking. A brief pause later, and like magic, the driver flipped a switch and the meter sprung to life.
Ah-ha! It worked! Thus began my adventure of living almost entirely in Arabic for my two-month study abroad in Morocco. This little anecdote – along with many others that I wouldn’t dream of boring you with – proved to be some of the most nerve-wracking and rewarding experiences of my semester-too-long college career.
Now, am I overdramatizing a cab ride for the sake of writing a fun blog for my job? Most definitely; but when people ask me what my favorite part of studying abroad in Morocco was, they’re often surprised when I say it was simple, pedestrian moments like this and not camping in the Sahara desert, mountain climbing in Aksor, or watching the sunset in Tetouan (as amazing and breathtaking as all those experiences were).
It was moments like taking cab rides to the souk, asking for directions to my office on my first day of work, and meeting my Moroccan friends out for coffee that gave animation and purpose to my language study – my purpose for taking this crazy adventure in Morocco in the first place.
Wow, now writing this is making me sentimental. I miss the absurd amount of mint tea and tagine I consumed over that incredible summer, my friends in the newsroom at the English newspaper I worked at, sleeping in the desert among what I can only describe as complete tranquility. Man, those were the days…
Now, bringing it back to HLS.
Most of my friends from my Arabic days are actually back in Morocco doing the flagship capstone year (hoping to feature them on the blog/Instagram at some point too 😊), and I am amazed at how good their Arabic has become. Make no mistake about it, they’re all really smart students and always have been, but it’s no secret that they and all the other success stories that HLS has produced owe their success in part to the world-class faculty and programs here.
If you’re tired of me getting on my soapbox about how great everyone and everything at HLS is, don’t worry, I’ll sadly be leaving when I graduate next month and bid farewell to my shiny global studies building that I’ve called home for the past year or so. BUT, before that happens, let me take these last few sentences to tell you all how important it is to get involved with experiences like study abroad during your time here.
Yes, I know it is required for everyone in HLS to spend at least six weeks studying in a foreign country, but my only advice would be not to think of it as an obligation, but as an opportunity to strategically pursue your goals while having the absolute time of your life. Trust me, you won’t get many opportunities after college to go to Paris to study the politics of European integration and get croissants and coffee after class with your friends. It’s a cliche, but it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not just because you get to take weekend trips to Budapest and sit at rooftop dinners til one in the morning, but because you will have new experiences and make connections that will stick with you forever. I still brag about how I was causally a political columnist during my time in Morocco.
So, those are my words of wisdom before I thoroughly enjoy my Thanksgiving break. I hope I’ve given you some food for thought (ha, get it?) for your upcoming week of relaxation. Here’s the link to the IU study abroad office, by the way…