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Midshipmen Share Experiences Studying in Morocco

Posted on: March 27, 2013 08:00 EDT by the International Programs Office

Midshipman 1st Class Samuel Prescott and Midshipman 2nd Class Mark Santamaria share their experiences studying abroad in Morocco.

We were searching for a place to study abroad, but not just at another military school or civilian university located in a popular vacationing spot.  We wanted an adventure away from the usual academy lifestyle, a place where we could really let ourselves go and fully immerse into a new culture.

Consequently, we chose Morocco. Located on the northwestern corner of Africa, Morocco is an country with endless offerings of adventure, culture and language opportunities.

Traveling through our host program, IES Abroad, we arrived at our initial orientation in Fes, Morocco. Fes is the oldest medieval city still functioning in the world and it was awe inspiring to see. The labyrinth of historic streets, filled with the smells of pastries and other freshly cooked foods, seemed endless. The native Moroccans’ lifestyles had not changed for thousands of years. 

The orientation and language immersion in Fes lasted two weeks, at which point we moved in with our permanent homestays in Rabat, the capital city. Living within the bustling medina, or old part of town, we were able to explore and marvel at what every hanoot (Moroccan Arabic for store) had to offer. It all seemed too good to be true, but it only got better after we discovered the beach a mere two hundred yards from our houses.

Every day was a language challenge, being that hardly anyone spoke English in this Middle Eastern state. Everyone approached us using French but were soon impressed at our Arabic. They were more impressed later in the semester when we learned how to speak Darija, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic. 

The city was an adventure enough, but there was still the question of what to do on weekends. A trip into the Sahara Desert was in order, as was climbing North Africa’s highest peak, Mt. Toubkal. Other weekends, we would surf down in the south of the country, or watch street performers handle king cobras in Marrakesh. Every day was an adventure.  

We definitely found what we were looking for in this charismatic land, and that included our education. The classes at IES were insightful and pertinent. However, the best learning was done while conversing with our homestay families or bargaining in the streets. Morocco truly is a young and unique country of opportunity.
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