The blog has been a little silent of late – busy Autumn semester, hectic start to the new Spring semester, Christmas break in between – but we’re back now, with plenty of news and updates on life in French at Stirling. And given that we’re resurfacing on a rather grey and cold Scottish Tuesday, it’s particular pleasing to be able to kick off our 2018 with a post about far sunnier climes thanks to current final year student Fergus who, this time last year, was starting his Semester Abroad in Morocco:
“When it came around to choosing where to go for my semester abroad there wasn’t really much of a choice for me. Both academically and personally I felt in somewhat of a rut and needed a big change. Somehow, I misconstrued how the applications went, wrongly assuming that the choices were ranked on merit or academic performance, so when I saw I was (the only one) going to Morocco I was a wee bit surprised, albeit elated.
I filled out all the application forms with an equal degree of anxiety, excitement, and haste. It took a while to hear back from EGE Rabat, which as I quickly found was normal upon my arrival there, and I started to get organised to go. I went out almost month before the term actually started to try to get accustomed and it only dawned on me that I was going to Africa whilst I was sat on the plane. After arriving in Tanger via Malaga, I got a taxi to where I was staying, met the owner of the flat, then went out to look about sans phone, map etc which was fun. I bought a sim card and had some tea, got lost, then went home for an early night before the 4-hour train journey to Rabat in the morning.
Everything had happened pretty quickly up until this point where it all slowed down and I experienced ‘Moroccan time’ as I was to become very accustomed to during my time there. The train was almost empty on departure but 3 hours in we sat waiting until another train stopped next to us, all its passengers joined us and I found myself standing for the rest of the journey. Tall, blonde and impossibly pale, packed in like a sardine, and not understanding a word around me – I’d found the change I was looking for.
If I felt at a loss upon arriving, that feeling quickly disappeared as I started university and made friends. Everyone I met – teachers, international students, and especially Moroccan students – were extremely friendly and welcoming. The warm and welcoming nature of people in Morocco is one of the fondest memories that stays with me. Unlike the UK or large parts of Europe, where no-one has time for anyone else it seems these days, almost everyone I met, friends to be and strangers alike, had time to stop and chat. Whether that chat was helping with directions, proudly telling you of their country, or being eager to learn more about yours, there was always a smile and a ‘mharba’ [welcome] offered.
Although L’École de Gouvernance et d’Économie, is primarily focused on economics, politics, and international relations, I had the opportunity to follow some amazing courses such as Anthoplogie des Religions and Genre, Féminisme et Sexualité, which previously I hadn’t had the chance to take. As well as this, there was Classic Arabic and Moroccan Arabic [Darija] classes offered for everyone from absolute beginners like myself to experienced speaker. These classes were a wonderful help during my time there, as it was amazing to learn some Arabic as well as dialect specific to the country, but it also went a long way when out and about interacting with people.
We were able to get out and about every weekend, and with plenty free time from university, there was plenty opportunity to explore the country. Exploring Rabat itself, there is so much to do, whether wandering through the medina and trying the various foods being produced in the street, visiting the various historical sites, surfing, or just hanging out at a café, there is no shortage of things to do and see. Outside of the capital, Morocco has so much to offer! I was taken aback by how varied the country is. Every 100km the landscape changes, from beautiful beaches with huge waves to vast cityscapes, to the spectacular snow-capped Atlas mountains, or the western Sahara desert, it has it all. Most exchange students I met were always keen to get out and visited different parts of the country whenever possible, my first weekend I found myself visiting a snow-covered, European looking town in the North dubbed the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’!
Particular highlights for me where, trekking in the desert and staying overnight with the berber guys we were with, enjoying an amazing home cooked meal with me class at our French teacher’s house, surfing constantly for two weeks after term finished, and changing a flat tyre at 2500m above sea level in the Atlas mountains (believe it or not), and arranging an exchange of sorts with the guy that helped as way of a thank you, as well as a week-long solo trip around the North after everyone else had left. All these times and more, combined with the real and lasting friendships formed during my time there helped to make the experience unforgettable. I couldn’t recommend a semester abroad enough, or just visiting Morocco otherwise, in case you couldn’t tell already.”
Many, many thanks to Fergus for sending us this blog post and for patiently waiting for me to get round to adding it! With many of our Year 3 students currently off on their Semesters Abroad, we’re looking forward to being able to post more tales of travels and languages over the weeks ahead.