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Morocco with CIEE

This post is by Pearl Steinberg, a Communications major and Spanish and Business minor student at Ursinus College. During the spring 2013 semester she is participating in the CIEE Communication, New Media and Journalism program.

Seville has been particularly rainy lately, and so, a trip to Morocco was a welcome distraction! The Communications program got up bright and early (7:15AM bus) to embark on a journey to Chefchaouen, Morocco. While CIEE makes sure to plan trips ensuring everyone gets a chance to see a little bit of the area surrounding Sevilla, I remember being shocked when I saw that Morocco was on the itinerary! Many people spend their whole lives dreaming of traveling—wanting nothing more than to browse through a little African market and haggle down a vendor for a hand-painted piece of pottery. To be given the opportunity to actually live this dream was beyond exciting and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Upon being greeted by our guide, we were immediately taken to a restaurant that, with a hearty 3 course meal, set the precedent for what the majority of our meals would look like while in Chefchaouen—couscous, vegetables, and of course, some nice dessert. To put it simply, I was never hungry while in Morocco. In fact, I was often overly full. It was wonderful! After lunch, we hopped back on the bus and headed into town to meet our host families!

The entire program crowded into a little room and greeted the Chefchaouen students with whom we would we living. A definite sense of excitement was in the air as everyone introduced themselves and made small talk. Every single host exuded warmth and hospitality with their words alone, emphasizing how excited they were to have us in their homes and how they were sure we would have the time of our lives—and boy, were they right! That night we all went back to our respective homes to bond with our families and relax for the busy day ahead of us.

The next day, we hastily ate breakfast in order to arrive punctually at our meeting point for a day of activities with the group. We played some “ice-brakers” to get to know everyone’s names and get a conversation going between the Moroccan and American students. In order to better facilitate our interactions, our Spanish professors also had to speak in English because the Moroccan students didn’t understand Spanish. It was all surreal—in Morocco, with Americans, with Spanish teachers speaking English. After the “get-to-know-you” activities, we began to prepare for our day of recording soundscapes. We were divided into 4 small groups to explore the city and record the sounds we came across. This exercise was not only an excellent way to acclimate ourselves to the city, but also, a great way of getting to know the students outside of our homestay. We later reviewed all the soundscapes and pictures everyone worked on back at the original meeting point—this allowed us to appreciate all the hard work everyone had done and get a chance to laugh at what we had recorded while around town.

After the soundscapes, we had free time and a bunch of us decided to go back to the city center to do some shopping and drink tea from one of Chefchaouen’s many rooftop restaurants overlooking the breathtaking mountains which surround the city. The tea in Chefchaouen is unlike any other I have ever tasted in my life and I am sure I will miss it dearly until I have a chance to go back to the magical little mountain town. More than anything, as much as I will miss the tea like a close friend and dream of the larger-than-life meals, what will always stay with me about my experience in Chefchaouen is the warmth of its people and the similarities between the us all regardless of our being “worlds apart.” The trip was eye opening in that it allowed us to, therefore, not only acclimate to a new culture, but also, recognize just how much two seemingly different cultures can have a lot in common! 


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