My Semester in Review

Blaze Grabowski headshot
Blaze Grabowski
December 30, 2023
A rooftop view of Marrakech

I remember coming back to our hostel from an extraordinary day out nearby Nador. We were in our friend's car, listening to Berber music, winding up mountain roads, in a city that was an overnight journey from our studies in Rabat. At the top of the mountains, we could see the Mediterranean sea gleaming in the evening sun on both sides of us. I felt so removed from my ordinary life, I felt as though I was flung to a random corner of the earth to see its true beauty, both naturally and in its people. 

This moment that I turn back to represents my semester in Rabat perfectly. I have spent the vast majority of my life living just outside of New York and right in the middle of Washington DC. These places can feel like they are the center of the world, with so many people and important institutions around us, all of whom regularly make decisions about what kind of world we get to live in. But as I lived in and traveled around Morocco, I was able to get away from that centralism, and I was able to see how diverse and beautiful the world is. 

Above all, my experience in Morocco introduced me to so many beautiful, kind, caring, and amazing people. In a previous blog post, I delved into my host families and the impact their kindness and generosity had on me throughout the semester. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find such kindness within people. Yet during my time in Morocco, I was able to meet so many people who made their kindness so available to everybody they meet and come across. My professors also showed this character, they all were so kind and caring about us and our experience in Morocco. Even though they say goodbye to so many students each semester, professors could be found welling in their eyes saying goodbye to our cohort. It is so easy to lose hope that there are no kind people in our world, if I ever one day felt that way, I would recall my time in Morocco to realize how foolish such a conclusion would be. 

Morocco itself is an extraordinary place with a rich history, culture, and natural beauty, that I am missing now that I am back home. The old medina of Rabat is hundreds of years old, which is so different from America where everything is relatively new. It was a fascinating experience to live in a place where the language, culture, religion and society are all completely different from what I am used to. This can be challenging to navigate, and during my time in Morocco, I always had to overcome those differences. I relied on my minimal French skills throughout the semester to communicate with people. But many Moroccans do not even speak French, which meant my even more rudimental Arabic would become necessary at times. For everything I needed to do, for tasks as simple as buying a water bottle, I had to overcome a language barrier. But by the end of the semester, I noticed a marked improvement in my foreign language skills, which made the challenges worthwhile.

Grappling societal and cultural differences was less challenging for me than overcoming language barriers, but these differences created a great learning curve. In an attempt to understand our different cultures, I was always asking questions about the different morals and customs that people held. Through this exposure, I have learned a lot more about Morocco and the world, although I still have so much to learn. 

From Rabat, I had so many amazing travel experiences throughout Morocco and Europe that further made the semester so rememberable. In Morocco, I traveled with IES Abroad to Meknes, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Fez, and most importantly, the Sahara Desert. These included excursions were one of the main reasons why I chose the program, and I certainly do not regret the decision. Cohort trips were great opportunities to make friends with the other study abroad students, as well as the professors that traveled with us. The cohort trips also made traveling easy for us all. Thanks to these trips, most of my travel throughout Morocco was taken care of. Especially for the Sahara Desert which is difficult to travel to, having a cohort trip was an awesome experience. 

Thanks to our four day week schedule and budget airlines, traveling on the weekends was a doddle. I had a trip planned for almost every weekend of the semester. I did numerous trips throughout Spain, which has a deep cultural connection with Morocco. I also traveled to Germany, Belgium, and Italy during the semester. I never spent more than $80 roundtrip on my flights, and by using cheap European hostels, I was able to see so much with just a college traveler's budget. 

My semester in Morocco was an unforgettable experience that will surely have an impact on how I live the rest of my life. From my host family to my peers, from my professors to random travelers, I met so many wonderful people whose kindness really touched me. Morocco itself is an amazing country whose beauty shone right through my semester. My experience presented challenges and adjustments that only made me stronger and more knowledgeable about the world I live in. And through my study program and independent travel, I had the opportunity to visit so many different places throughout Europe and Africa. 

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Blaze Grabowski headshot

Blaze Grabowski

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.

2023 Fall
Home University:
George Washington University, The
International Affairs
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