Mallory Wheeler - 2014 Program Participant

Camel riding in the Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert Trip

What attracted you to the idea of study abroad?

I've always known that I wanted to be involved in international relations, even before I graduated high school. When I was looking at universities, it was important for me to choose a school that supported study abroad. Being an international relations major, I knew I wanted to study abroad for a year to dip my toes into the traveling pool.

Why did you choose IES Abroad?

When I met with my study abroad advisor, I asked for all of the French speaking programs that were offered through my school. I knew I wanted to be different, so I threw out the options in France and chose between Morocco and Senegal. The Morocco program offered Arabic language learning, a skill I knew I wanted, so the choice was made.

What was your favorite thing about Rabat?

My favorite thing about Rabat was the beach. The other students and I would try to spend a couple hours there every day, either swimming, sitting on the beach, or getting a mint tea at a café. It was also a great place to meet people our age while abroad!

What makes IES Abroad’s Morocco program unique?

I don't think many other people had the opportunity to ride a camel into the desert, climb a sand dune, and sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert. I was lucky enough to do it twice, and that is a highlight that is Morocco specific.

How did local staff support you throughout your time in Morocco?

Our program had two professors. Our Arabic professors were more friends than staff. They would hang out with us, watch soccer games, and help us with whatever we needed. They joined us on all of our field trips and participated in all the cultural activities, going above and beyond the call of duty.

Attendees of a Moroccan wedding

Moroccan wedding

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

The one thing I wish I had done differently was make more Moroccan friends. I came away with several, but for such a long period of my life I spent too much time with my fellow Americans.

Describe a day in the life of IES Abroad's Morocco program.

You wake up early, have breakfast with your family, and then walk to the IES Abroad Center. From the old medina, it takes about a half an hour to get to the center. Once there, everyone has their mandatory Arabic class. For the rest of the day, you alternate time in class or hanging out in one of the classrooms, the library, or the Berber tents. Your host family will pack you a lunch and you'll eat it in the middle of the day, maybe running to the hanut for a snack.

All the classes are finished by 6 p.m., and if you are finished earlier than you are already at the beach. You'll hang out for a couple hours before heading home for Moroccan mint tea and snacks, before hanging out and doing homework, watching TV, or whatever you feel like doing. Dinner is with the family again, when you recount your day and spend some quality time before going to bed.

What was your favorite thing to do outside of your coursework and scheduled program activities?

I loved traveling. Morocco has a fairly on-time train system that can get you from Tangier to Marrakech in a couple hours. Nearly every weekend I was visiting another city, another town, and having an amazing adventure.

Scarf shop in Fes, Morocco

Scarf shop in Fes

Tell us more about your accommodation in Rabat.

I lived with a host family, all together there were nine of us. My favorite people were my mom and my niece, both of whom I love dearly. My mom and I would watch horror movies late at night, in English with Arabic subtitles. My niece and I would draw together, and I taught her how to make paper snowflakes in December.

Now that you're home, how would you say studying abroad in Morocco has impacted your life?

The year I spent in Morocco will most likely be one of the best in my life. Being home, I can't help but compare the two. I know my family is sick of it, my constantly forgetting that I can wear shoes inside the house and my shock at the sight of bare legs. I'm adjusting, slowly, and I know soon I'll be back to the way I used to be. But I'll never forget how it felt to live there, how different and vibrant Morocco is, and I will continue to apply the experience to everything I do in the future.