Why Rabat?

Brianna Gist
December 30, 2019

In my previous post, I mentioned that the most popular questions I’ve received since being back in the states include “Where is Morocco?” and “Did you have to wear a scarf?” yet I must admit that this has only turned out to be partially true. Over the past three weeks of winter break, I’ve met wrinkled noses, upturned eyebrows, ear-to-ear grins, and the occasional pursed lip when individuals ask me their new most popular question: 

Why did you choose Morocco? Why Rabat?


“Great question,” I replied, “To be honest, I really don’t know,” was my response the first few times I was met with this inquiry. I figured that eventually, this answer would prove unsatisfactory, and it did when I was catching up with a well-traveled family friend at a holiday dinner party. So, I got to reflecting.

In the beginning, studying abroad in Morocco was a no-brainer because I had been to Casablanca and Marrakech before with my father and step-mother. I was eager to re-immerse myself in Moroccan culture and learn more about the ins and outs of living in such an exciting location. I had dipped my toe into Maghrebi society and as I boarded the plane in Marrakech two years ago, I promised myself that I would return. 

Yes, I partially chose Rabat in order to fulfill a promise made to my seventeen-year-old self as I left Morocco with tears in my eyes. However, the more functional reasons for choosing Rabat are threefold, and include a combination of academic and personal formation. I shall pitch them to you, the reader and/or prospective student, in an effort to convince you to choose or support IES Abroad as your study abroad program.

First and foremost, I was beyond excited to begin learning Arabic and to continue improving my French. As a former French protectorate, Morocco is the perfect location to begin studying Arabic while improving any level of French speaking ability. I was grateful to be paired with a host family with whom I spoke French every single day, who challenged me by throwing in the occasional conversation in Arabic. Even if you aren’t paired with a French-speaking host family, you’ll have plenty of opportunities in French-taught classes or in everyday exchanges to practice your French. If the Arabic requirement makes you nervous about choosing Rabat, don’t be afraid to tackle the language: I can attest to the expertise, patience, and passion exhibited by the IES staff in Rabat and how excited they were to walk with us as we began our journey learning Arabic. 

Additionally, IES Abroad suited me perfectly because I was able to choose the courses I was interested in taking, and I could tailor them to my major to increase the chances of transferring credit. The other programs available to Georgetown students featured a more restricted course set because they were either geared toward advanced Arabic speakers or focused on integrated service projects. As a Linguistics major with double minors in Government and French, I took classes on Moroccan Arabic (Darija), Islam in Morocco (taught in French), and North African Politics. There were so many fascinating courses to choose from including Arab Media and Cultural Identities, and I had a difficult time selecting my classes for the semester. No matter what, you will find classes that suit you, and I could not have been happier with my course selection and the IES program as a whole!

After recounting these reasons, my family friend smiled as he analyzed my train of thought; however, his smile turned into a respectful nod upon hearing my final explanation for choosing Rabat. Most importantly, I chose to study abroad in Rabat because I wanted a study abroad experience that would radically transform my outlook on life and the world. I guarantee you that I would not have extracted as much from my abroad experience if I had chosen to live in “Western” city that would have provided me with similar comforts akin to those at home. Why study abroad somewhere that’s more of the same? There is something about traveling so far out of your comfort zone that pushes you to grow, adapt, and re-orient yourself as you conduct everyday activities like hopping in a petit taxi or taking a shower. Personally, I’ve learned that I can live on a lot less than previously expected (I really don’t need to eat meat everyday), and I’ve emerged as someone who is more grateful for the things I do have back home, like Uber and continuous hot water. I encourage you to pop the bubble, and anyone on my program would motivate you to do the same.

As I write, I’m sitting on the plane back to DC to gear up for the start of a new semester at Georgetown. I’m incredibly grateful for choosing to study abroad in Rabat and will cherish my experience for the rest of my life. To all of you future IES students: I’m positive that you will not regret choosing Rabat!


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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
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Georgetown University
Chicago, IL
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