I remember when I received my homestay assignment, as soon as I saw that my family spoke "some" English, I was scared. I emailed IES Abroad asking if they had a family that spoke more English, since I had no confidence in my French or nonexistent Arabic skills. Yet, they told me not to worry, that almost all of the families had enough English skills for us to get by. More importantly, they reassured me that I would develop foreign language skills in a way I did not imagine would be possible. I am forever grateful for IES Abroad for not changing my homestay family. Each of them contributed to the greatest part of my Moroccan experience, and they are now my second family.
For IES Abroad Rabat, students spend the first ten days of the semester with a temporary host family in Meknes. This family created an amazing experience for me and my two host brothers who were also studying abroad with IES Abroad. My host mother was a French language professor, which was perfect for me to develop skills with the language. Her husband spoke no English, which further created a dependence on my ability to speak French. Luckily for us, both of their kids spoke great English, which struck the perfect balance between practicing a new language and being able to communicate in my own.
But language practice was just one of the many benefits we reaped from our Meknes homestay. Our host father showed us around Meknes, giving us a great feel of what to expect from three months in Morocco. From the country's unique cafe culture to the souks to the Hammam, baba Karim introduced everything we needed to know about Morocco. Our host mother took great care in feeding us all of the Moroccan delicacies. Once she found out we were adventurous, she splurged on beef brains and cow hooves. She also showed us the less adventurous foods, from great couscous lunches to tagines of fish, chicken and beef. She taught us how to make Moroccan tea for our snacks as well.
Our host siblings who spoke English became our new siblings. Manal, who was a few years older than us, took us to school and talked all the time about how much she loves Morocco. She is usually working in Paris, where I will be studying next semester. Thanks to my host family arrangement, I already have a familiar face for my next study abroad experience. Her younger brother Mehdi was the true entertainment of the week. He always made us laugh because he was such a peculiar character who was easily pleased to just sit at home and play FIFA. At night we would play pool with him in the local snooker clubs, and he introduced us to some of his friends as well. At the end of our Meknes homestays, we bid tough farewells to our Moroccan family. But thankfully for us, waiting in Rabat were our long term families.
I can honestly say that the greatest part of my time in Morocco was the family I grew so close with in Rabat. Each of them were some of the kindest and calmest people I have ever met. My host father was such a gentle soul who would do anything to make my experience wonderful. He insisted on delivering me lunch each day to class so that it was warm when I ate. On occasion, we would find a cafe to pass time. Like my host father, my host mother was as accommodating and kind as could be. She was always at home taking care of the house and her family.
The two of them were an amazing kitchen duo, who's food never missed. My favorite meal was what I was fed on the first night, a goat and plum tagine. Each of the ingredients, from the goat to the plums to the saffron and spices were of the highest quality, and when enjoyed with bread, it is a truly sensational meal. Their chicken dishes were also remarkable, especially my host mother's saffron chicken and pasta dish. Our family ate a lot of fish, they had a special recipe of roasted fish with tomato sauce, peppers and potatoes. Because Rabat is on the coast and because my host father worked in the fish industry for years, we always had premium quality fish. Even the side salads were always so fresh and flavorful. In my experience, Morocco's cuisine can only be fully enjoyed in the home, which makes homestays a wonderful option for study abroad students.
Each of my host siblings also became new brothers and sisters for me. I never had a sister before meeting Kenza. She was so much fun to be with, we would play cards all the time together. My host brother Alae was a year older than me, we spent great moments together on the Rabat beach passing by the time. My oldest brother Wadie always pushed me to hit the gym, and on occasion we would walk through the city late at night.
On top of the food and family, our homestay decided to get a dog after the first month of the semester. As a dog lover myself, Luna was an amazing addition to our already wonderful family. The home they provided me was also so beautiful and clean. We had a retractable roof that brought fresh air into the home all the time, and all of the walls were lined with dazzling Moroccan tile.
I could not have asked for anything more from my host family in Morocco. They added to my experience in so many ways that the semester would not have been the same without their constant love. The toughest goodbye from my time in Morocco was to all of them, who I cannot wait to see again in the future.
Of course, my homestay experience was not universally matched by everybody else. Still, I am confident that each person will benefit from such a unique experience. A friend of mine in Morocco at first struggled with having a homestay. They found it difficult to adjust to a new family that was unfamiliar to them. But by the end of the semester, through dialogue and patience, they struck a balance with their host family that I know made their experience so much better. The most remarkable achievement of the semester for them was their progress in Arabic. Before they arrived, they had no Arabic skills, but by the time they left, they were conversational. Because they had a host family that forced them to speak Arabic, they progressed in the language.
Host families at time can be challenging and difficult to adjust to, yet through time and patience, they provide such a rewarding addition to a semester of study abroad. I am forever grateful to my host family for providing me with such a great experience, and I strongly encourage every study abroad student to choose the same.
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Hello there! My name is Blaze. I am a student at George Washington University and I study International Affairs. I am also a Global Bachelor Student, a GW program where students study abroad for three semesters.