Getting in Rhythm

Brianna Gist
September 29, 2019

A few weeks have passed since my previous update, and I’m adjusting nicely to the rhythm of life in Rabat!

My weekdays begin at 7:00am when I wake up to have breakfast with my host mom, Mama Hnia, and Emily, my roommate. After breakfast, we meet up with a couple other students in the program and the four of us set out on our thirty-minute walk to the IES Abroad Center where our classes are held.

Fusha (Modern Standard Arabic) begins every morning at 8:30am. We’re slowly working our way through the Arabic alphabet, picking up vocabulary while we learn to connect letters and distinguish between sounds. As a linguist-in-training, I find it helpful that we have begun our Arabic studies using a phonetic alphabet (ex. “as-salaamu alaykum” for السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ ) because it’s a great way for us English heritage speakers to visualize the sounds using a script we’re familiar with. For all those who are worried about Arabic: Have no fear! The professors are very knowledgeable and patient (shoutout to Professor Houda) with the learning process.

From there, our day is broken into a rotating schedule of 1 hour and 50 minute blocks, meaning that some of the IES Abroad students have large periods of time to complete homework, eat lunch, take a nap, or socialize between classes. I’ve purchased a 3-month membership at the Hassan Club Gym (15 minute walk from the Center) for $80, and like to workout when I have a free block. I am currently taking North African Politics and French-taught Islam in Morocco, the latter of which will, inch’allah (if God wills), qualify for my French minor at Georgetown. I’m also auditing the Darija class in addition to taking a Hispanoamerican Narrative course (Spanish-taught) at the Université Mohammed V. Hopefully the university course pulls through!

As long as we attend class, there are no restrictions on leaving the Center, so I tend to either wait for my roommate or walk back home around 6pm at the end of the school day. So far, the workload has been very manageable and I almost always finish up any remaining work before dinner around 9pm. After dinner, we wish our host parents "Goodnight" before retiring to our rooms for much-needed rest. 

Even though the days are long, my classes are fascinating and it doesn’t feel like I’m in school. We’ve started to bond with the IES Abroad Staff and it’s refreshing to build such a close rapport with our leaders and professors. Every Wednesday, we have cultural activities that bring everyone at IES Abroad together, and I had a great time last Wednesday attending the Belly Dancing Class led by Professor Houda.

Right now, I’m writing this post from the comfort of my bed, re-hydrating and taking some time for myself after our whirlwind adventure to Chefchaouen and Tangiers. We left early on Thursday morning for Chefchaouen, and after a four-hour bus ride peppered with waves of nausea, we arrived at the “Blue City” nestled in the side of a mountain. The architecture and panoramic views were breathtaking as we ventured up and down the hilly terrain. A couple of us hiked up to see the sunset from the mountain and were overjoyed with excitement and gratitude for the trip.

Tangiers was swept with an entirely different character of its own, no doubt influenced by its history at the intersection of the Mediterranean and Atlantic. It felt like a city of mixed heritage, both uniquely Spanish, French, and Moroccan at once. Speaking of breathtaking, we were led on a tour through the Old Kasbah and were able to see the Mediterranean coastline for miles as it snaked around to form the Strait of Gibraltar.

My favorite part about these trips was the free time that we enjoyed between tours and after dinner. We explored various parts of the cities on our own time and shopped, walked around, or hung out by the pool. I also appreciated that we were free to rest at the hotels if necessary, which were - by the way - perfectly suited for our needs with tasty meals, air-conditioned rooms, clean bathrooms, comfortable beds, and decent wifi. My hat goes off to the IES Abroad Rabat staff for excellent hotel and restaurant choices!

The experiences of the past few weeks have reaffirmed another lesson that I’ve learned while being abroad, second to recognizing the discomfort of being uncomfortable. I believe I speak for all of the students here in mentioning that our emotions have mirrored the graph of y = sin(x); we have all felt a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from exhaustion to elation. Over the past three days in particular, I felt irritable, excited, sad, happy, tired, or nauseous within a couple hours of each other. 

Albeit disconcerting, the lesson lies in the fact that one should sink into the emotions as much as possible. This leaves no room for guilt or doubt about natural emotions, as often happens when I’m feeling apologetic about not feeling my best. A quick heads up for my male readers, it wasn’t exclusively female students who felt this way: sometimes morale was low for male students as well! It was completely acceptable to not feel your best - and other students understood this concept and gave each other the support, respect, and space they needed.

This brings me to Pro-tip #2: While abroad, make time for yourself and seek refuge in the comforts that bring you happiness (for my readers at home, you should do this anyway). When I’m at school, this would normally include a trip to the movie theater and lots of popcorn; however, I’ve adjusted this to include biscuit crackers dipped in Nutella, shopping at Zara, and listening to music. Happiness can be found all around us :) 

Cheers to a restful weekend and another great week!

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Brianna Gist

<p>I am a rising junior studying Linguistics, Government, French, and Spanish at Georgetown University. If all goes right my my life, I would love to devote my career to diplomacy and peace studies or to preserving endangered languages. I am a proud Chicago native and a huge foodie who loves to swim and do bikram yoga. At school, I am a writing consultant specializing in humanities papers, blogs, op-eds, and presentations, and I also sing as a soprano in the Gospel Choir. It is a privilege to be studying abroad in Morocco, and I greatly look forward to my time in Rabat!</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
Georgetown University
Chicago, IL
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