If you have the chance to live with a host family while abroad, go for it. It may be nerve-wracking to commit to living with a family in another country, especially if you have the more comfortable option of living with your peers who are having similar experiences, but living with a host family is well worth it.
Of course, there are similarities and differences between a host family and your own, and it will take time to adjust to living in unmarked territory. Depending on where you decide to stay, you may or may not know their language. Don’t let this be discouraging! I came to Morocco knowing a lot of FusHa (Modern Standard Arabic), but my family speaks Darija (Moroccan Arabic), which is basically a different language. Communication can be frustrating and awkward sometimes, but I’m so glad that I am living with this family because I’m entirely immersed in a language and culture that I would otherwise be able to ignore if I were living in a hotel or dorm - I’m also glad because they’re probably the best people in Morocco!
This is not to underscore the difficulty of living with a host family where communication is limited. This experience is an incredible challenge, but it is equally rewarding, and the smallest breakthroughs bring such joy. Ten minutes ago, I was able to successfully tell my host mom that my friends and I are going out tonight and it felt like a cause for celebration. A full sentence! How far I’ve come!
I particularly recommend staying with a host family if you’re coming to Morocco, because Moroccan families are like no other. I immediately felt welcomed into my home here, not because it was a place to stay, but because the people here are so kind. My host parents have been walking me all over Rabat until I get to know the city, and they were even so thoughtful to hang a huge American flag in my room to make me feel at home. The kids in my home are also the best – I live with a four-year-old and two one-year-old twins. The four-year-old talks circles around me, but it’s been fun to interact with him in other ways like playing games. The twins are a blast because we have pretty much the same language level (although now I would venture to say that I’m maybe at a slightly higher pace).
The culture here is pretty different from my own, and it’s really interesting to experience Moroccan life firsthand. I’m here during Ramadan, which is special enough on its own, because I get to see Rabat during a time of year when things are much calmer during the day and quite loud at night. My host parents fast all day, so when we gather at night for iftar (when Muslims break their daylong fast), we eat an absolutely massive meal. It’s pretty much Thanksgiving here every night. Women’s roles are also very different here, where many are regulated to household positions. Even though their roles are traditional, every Moroccan woman I’ve interacted with so far is filled with so much life and strength. They also know what they’re doing – today, some students and myself gathered to prepare meals for the homeless and the women running the preparation were giving out orders like total professionals. My host mom is no exception. I’ve never seen anything so brave as my host mom unflinchingly walking up to a pan of bubbling and popping oil every day while preparing dinner.
Even though there have been many differences between home life in the US and home life in Morocco, I’ve been lucky enough to notice a lot of similarities as well. I’ve included some below for your perusal.
- Does every dad snore? I think yes.
- I walk so much that I think I just might lose weight here, but my host mom feeds me so much I’m probably end up gaining it!
- Brothers will always tease their younger sisters, but it’s fun to observe instead of participate!
- My host mom, just like my real mom, often mentions that I have a “baby face.” In fact, it’s one of the first things she said to me, and it’s one of the things I hear a lot back in the states.
- If I’m ever feeling homesick for American media, it’s cool, there are Moroccan versions of “Punk’d” and “Key and Peele,” and they’re actually pretty good.
That’s all I’ve got for this post! To reiterate: if you’re thinking about studying abroad, please opt to live with a host family. You will have a much richer experience. Even if you don’t know the language, go for it. You won’t regret it!
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<p>Alex Ennes is a sophomore majoring in English (Creative Writing concentration) with minors in Arabic and Criminal Justice. She comes from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she enjoys spending her time reading and writing on the beach or taking her dogs for walks down to the dock! Alex currently lives in Philadelphia exploring her passions for reading, writing, learning languages, and playing music at Temple University, where she is also a Resident Assistant and Owl Ambassador (tour guide). Alex will be spending Summer 2017 in Morocco through IES Abroad's Rabat Summer: Francophone Studies and Arabic Language Program.</p>