Why did you choose this program? Ghana: I wanted to be able to see the on-the-ground operations of social programs and politics in Ghana because of an African politics course I had taken. Morocco: I wanted to further my understanding of international solutions to human rights violations after taking a class on transitional justice. The international criminal court has a few major languages and I wanted to get a taste of Arabic because of this.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. My favorite class abroad was my intensive study of Arabic. We met for 3 hours every day of the week to learn the language and colloquial way of saying certain things. It brought me together with the community in ways that I never would have been able to without the class. Things like culture were emphasized, so I wasn't just learning the language, but learning the way to speak and how to use it in everyday situations. We took field trips to practice our Arabic and were given assignments to go to the souk (market) to bargain and trade.I went to morocco not being able to say anything in Arabic and left with a strong understanding of the regional dialect as well as an understanding of the different ways to speak from being formal to joking with friends. By putting me in situations where I was not entirely sure of what I was saying or how I needed to say it, this class also increased my confidence in English for tasks such as interviews and public speaking.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived with a host family for the first part and lived with a couple students in a rented house for the last month. The reason for this was the structure of SIT programs. Every student has to complete an independent study project of their choosing at the end of the semester, and are given free reign on their schedule in the last month to make the most effective research. The classes I took in Arabic and other areas of study required that we all be housed relatively close to the school to be at class on time and my host family was wonderful. They took me in as one of their own and I still maintain contact with them today. My independent study housing was very different because I needed to travel a lot in order to research my topic. I stayed in a three-story riad with 3 other students for a very reasonable price for the last 3 and a half weeks of the semester.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Go abroad because you can! We have programs for any kind of student in any major and you'll never be able to travel like this again. Payment can sometimes be even less than what a regular semester at IU costs and we have many financial tools to help you out. The best advice I can give is to put your time in at our office. The more you know, the better plan you can make!
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? My favoriote memory from going abroad was getting "lost" in the desert when a friend and I wanted to see the sunrise. We saw a large sand dune that looked close enough to walk to and soon found that it was incredibly difficult to judge distance in the desert at night. We settled on another dune that looked closer and the same problem came up. Finally, we went to a dune that was actually nearby and when the sun came up, we didn't know where we had gotten to. Luckily the wind hadnt blown our tracks out of the sand yet so we were able to follow them back to the hotel. The sunrise was beautiful and I saw constellations that I've never been able to witness at our latitude in Indiana.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? I thought that Morocco would be a lot more desert than what it actually was. To my surprise, there were mountains and lots of heavily forested areas as well as coastlines along both the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The geography was incredibly diverse and so were the people. Depending on where you were in the country, there were many different languages. multiple dialects of Arabic, some french and Spanish speakers with the occasional English speaker, and multiple dialects of Amazigh. I was not really prepared for the diversity, but it was one of the most enjoyable aspects about the trip.
Describe your experience with culture shock or reverse culture shock. I was caught off guard in both of my international experiences by the difference in work ethic between countries. Americans are some of the hardest workers, so it was a difficult adjustment to try to get service on a Sunday in Ghana or on a Friday in Morocco as well as trips outside both of these countries having their own cultural quirks when it came to work/ rest. Another aspect of culture shock when in a country that no one speaks English is that there is no one you can express grievances to in your home tongue. On my return home it was very different in both cases because my stomach had to reevaluate the food I was eating and my mind had to get back to American mode. For me it was much more difficult to adjust back to America than it was to get used to Ghana or Morocco.
“If I could do it over, I would…” If i could do it over, I would check in more often with an adviser about scholarship money and finances.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? There are many, many ways to skin a cat. I cannot even enumerate the number of foundation beliefs that I've had overturned while abroad. The more you immerse yourself anywhere, the more you'll realize the truth to this statement, but one way is not always better than another way.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? You're going to change while you're abroad both in personality and understanding of the way the world works. An American perspective is fine, but when you add other perspectives you'll start to understand some underlying commonalities to all humans as well as the fundamentals of what makes our own country unique.
If you participated in an internship while abroad, would you recommend that future students take an internship and why? Yes. I think living and working in an environment other than America is important for the same reasons you go abroad in the first place. There are many ways that our country differs from other parts of the world and making these distinctions when you return home creates a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our own system of 9-5 work week.
What was your greatest challenge? Language acquisition. I did not speak any Arabic or French before going and could hold legitimate conversation by the time I left. This took a lot of time and effort but was well worth it for my personal growth and for my resume.
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” It's not secret that we all value our time here at IU. After all, you (hopefully) only get 8 semesters.The gerneral pattern of this campus is that freshman year is spent getting used to it all: the lack of parents, freedom, increased difficulty of classes. By the time you're a sophomore you kind of have these things down and are really trying to take in all that you can of the IU culture because you realize how fast that first year went and before you know it you'll have graduated. Staying on campus is fine, but your friends won't forget who you are and at the end of the day, studying abroad is just as much a part of IU culture as anything else like little 500 or joining student organizations. Going abroad is a new experience, but you've already done it as a freshman and, oddly enough, it's easier when you're abroad with other students your age who have also been through the motions of becoming independent in a new place. The entertainment is different, the culture is different, the classes are different, but just like being a freshman, you'll never regret the initial discomfort of pushing your boundaries.
What fact about your host country do you think people would be surprised to learn? Morocco is not homogenous in any way, shape or form. Even though is is an islamic country, the ways people practice are different. Even though the official language of the government is Fench, there are many dialects of Arabic, Amazigh, and influences from English and Spanish. Even its geography is highly variable, moving from the desert in the south to mountains and beaches in the north and many miles of coat line along both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean sea.
How did you find scholarships for study abroad? I looked to my academic departments in Political Science and Political and Civic Engagement as well as the office of Overseas study. I found scholarships through Hutton and the college and also received aid from SIT.
Would you recommend other students pursue any specific scholarship opportunities? Hutton international experience is great because you don't need to be in Hutton and 85% of students who apply get some amount for funding. Other than this there are definitely demographic scholarships geared toward any type of person and can even get as specific as what you are studying or where you are interning.