Jada Bullen - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I have always been internationally-inclined, dreaming about countries and how I could go there. I always knew that my study abroad experience would be the pinnacle of my college career, so I have been looking forward to it since I came to Georgetown. Also, it just happened to be a happy convenience that my specific academic program in the School of Foreign Service recommended that all students in their third year went abroad . So, for me, it was an easy decision to go abroad.
Why did you choose IES Abroad?
I am studying Arabic as my language of proficiency, so it was mandatory for me to study abroad in a country where Arabic was the official language. My only choices were Jordan or Morocco, and I chose Morocco. I chose Morocco because of its cultural vibrance and its location at the cornerstone of the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. My superb study abroad advisor led me to the IES Abroad program in Rabat, specifically. I was really drawn to the different excursions that the program provided.
What was your favorite part about Rabat?
My favorite part of Rabat was its centrality. Since it is the capital, everything can be found there- and if you cannot find it, all you have to do is get on a train and easily be transported to almost every other city in the country. In Rabat alone, you could shop in the old-style medina, eat french-style crepes at a fancy cafe in Agdal, or hang out at sunset by the beach. In my opinion, it was the best city in Morocco in which to study and explore.
What made your experience in Rabat with IES Abroad unique?
Because IES Abroad in Rabat is an independent program, all the students became very close and we found our source of comfort within each other and the IES Abroad Center. We knew everyone that worked at our site on a first name basis. We talked with them, drank with them, and even traveled with them. Our connection with the Moroccan staff helped us feel even more connected to Morocco as well. Furthermore, IES Abroad in Rabat has really mastered the art of group trips. Our trip to the Sahara was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, and I have only to thank the staff at IES Abroad in Rabat for that.
How supportive were the local IES Abroad staff?
I loved the staff at the IES Abroad Center, especially Nisrine. Nisrine, our student director, was amazing! She really did everything in her power to make sure that we transitioned as easily as possible and had access to any and all activities that we wanted. Our program had a very thorough orientation period, which lasted about ten days. Within that period, we learned survivor colloquial Arabic, had a taste of life with a homestay, and were introduced to important Moroccan customs with a guiding hand from our local stuff. Even after the orientation, our IES Abroad staff were always around to answer our questions.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I do wish that I had not resisted against picking up a few French words while I was there. French is still widely spoken in public spaces (especially in Rabat) because there are more formal institutions.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
On a regular day in Rabat, I would hear the call of prayer, faintly, in my sleep and that would be my signal that I had 30 more minutes until I had to wake up. At around 7 a.m., I would properly wake up and have breakfast: bread and sweet mint tea. At 8 a.m., my friends and I would meet up at the top of Avenue Mohammed V and then take the 30-minute walk to the IES Center.
Everyone started the day with Arabic class, and then, depending on your schedule, you could lounge around the center on in the comfortable tent on the roof, where you can see the whole city! Sometimes, if I had a bigger break, I would walk back to the medina to shop, or to a cafe to sip coffee with my friends.
In the afternoon, after finishing classes, I would return home to have afternoon tea and Milwi (Moroccan pastry) with my host family. Then, I might meet up with my friends and go to the Marina or to another cafe to people-watch (a Moroccan favorite past time). Around 7 p.m., I would head back for dinner, weaving through large bustling crowds of the medina. I would spend the night hanging out with my host siblings and watching Bollywood movies.
What is something you enjoyed doing on your free time?
I loved our weekend excursions! Almost every week, my friends and I would look up cool places to travel to and then plan a weekend trip there. Although, I loved our base in Rabat, these trips were like a weekly dose of adventure, and we it allowed us to see many different places of Morocco, meet new people, and be exposed to different regional cultures within this one country.
Sometimes, a few of us would even go out of the country to neighboring countries, such as Spain or Italy. Some of the other study abroad program based in Rabat didn't allow their students to travel outside the country, so I really recommend IES Abroad if you are looking to travel and take advantage of Morocco's proximity to so many other destinations.
How was your accommodation in Rabat? What did you like best about it?
I chose to stay with a host family because I wanted to be as immersed as possible. Sometimes the language barrier and culture differences made it a little uncomfortable, but I learned a lot of dialect and had a close-up look at how a real Moroccan family is like. I really enjoyed not having to worry about food. My host mom was so nice and thoughtful; she knew all my favorite Moroccan meals and even taught me how to make Moroccan tea!
How has studying abroad in Morocco transformed you?
It might sound cliche, but Morocco changed me so much. The challenges I confronted and the people I met left a lasting impact on how I see the world, strengthened my character, and broadened my horizon. Although I have always known I would study abroad in the MENA region, Morocco is not a conventional place (for the most part). Yet, that is what makes it such a special experience.
I had the opportunity to witness, experience, participate in, feel, and marvel at a fascinating culture that not many get to see, and I learned much about myself in the process.
I also made several life-long friends with similar passions--one of those being Morocco. If anything, my adventures in Morocco revealed to me how much I love traveling, and I am excited to set off again on a new adventure.