Why did you choose ISA over other study abroad programs?
I had two main reasons for choosing ISA. First was the price - ISA stood out as one of the most reasonably priced study abroad programs I found in my search, and their program in Meknes was less expensive than the other programs I was looking at in Morocco. Second, and probably most important, was the reviews. I was very involved in the study abroad community at my university and I was constantly hearing good things about ISA. The representatives who visited my campus were super friendly and had had great experiences, and when I mentioned the idea of studying abroad through ISA instead of a program sponsored by the University of California, my study abroad adviser loved the idea. She told me, "We have a really good relationship with them, they're great!"
You’re from UC San Diego, what advice would you give to other UCSD students going to study abroad in Meknes?
Go and enjoy it! Jump right in! The people are super friendly so don't be surprised if someone you meet at the bus stop invites you home for dinner to meet their family. If you miss the beach, go visit Essaouira. It's a small town on the coast west of Marrakesh and it was my favorite trip while I was in Morocco.
On a more bureaucratic note, people tend to worry about the paperwork for non-UC programs and courses transferring to their major, but it's really not that bad. You have to make sure to submit the paperwork on time, but the whole process for approval is mostly a lot of waiting. Because UC has such a good relationship with ISA, a lot of the courses are easily pre-approved. Even if you forget to receive pre-approval for a particular course, or your schedule changes when you get there, you can always petition to use courses toward your major upon returning. It is definitely a lot easier (and less stressful) to have your courses approved before your departure though, so I'd recommend getting pre-approval whenever possible.
Why was Meknes the best place to study abroad in Morocco?
In comparison to other programs in Morocco, I really liked that ISA was based in Meknes rather than a major tourist city, like Casablanca or Marrakesh. It meant there were fewer tourists to jack up prices and interactions with locals felt more real, less contrived. I think it was easier to slip into everyday Moroccan life living in Meknes because everyone was Moroccan. Everything felt more authentic and down-to-earth in the local community.
What was your favorite class and why?
I'm torn on this one. I absolutely loved the intensive intermediate/advanced Arabic courses I took with professor Zakaryae Arsalane. He has got to be the best and most energetic language teachers I have ever seen! I learned so much in my courses with him, and my Arabic ability increased drastically.
My favorite non-language course was Professor Hajji's ‘Irreconcilable Differences?: The Representation of Geopolitical Conflict in Western and Arab News Media’, which I found absolutely fascinating. I really enjoyed the seminar-style lectures and I learned to think about media in a completely different way.
How has study abroad impacted your life?
I decided when I was really young that I wanted to be a world traveler, and study abroad fit right into that. I remember I had this moment of realization during Winter Break in Morocco: it was just after my 20th birthday and most of the students that were only there for one semester had already left. I was alone in my apartment in Meknes and I realized that at barely 20 years old I was living on my own in a foreign country! That was something I had always dreamed of, but I didn't expect to accomplish the feat so young.
I feel like living in Morocco for a year gave me the opportunity to mature and grow more into the person I eventually hope to become.
I met some great people there that will probably be friends for life (both Moroccan and American) and I learned so much about both Morocco and myself, I don't think I'd trade that for the world.
Alexandra is a self-proclaimed world traveler from the rural foothills of Northern California. She studied abroad twice during her undergraduate years at UC San Diego, before graduating with a degree in international studies in 2013. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Israel. Alexandra loves to learn, travel, dance, and eat spicy food. She hopes to work abroad someday.