One of the amazing perks to studying abroad in Spain is the proximity to so many other places, people, and cultures for you to experience! One experience that has been a student favorite is our field study to Morocco offered through our Alicante, Spain program.
Being such a staple field study option, we wanted to share our students’ thoughts on the field study and why it’s such a unique and eye-opening immersion opportunity!
Morocco Field Study – Alicante, Spring 2016
The goal of this field trip was to study the historic and cultural links between Spain and Morocco. Alicante, having been part of the Arabic expansion into Spain over the centuries, still reflects many aspects of its cultural influence in its architecture, food, festivities, etc. Likewise, the north of Morocco was part of the Spanish protectorate and the Spanish influence pervades many cultural aspects of Morocco. Two cultures separated by a common sea: the Mediterranean.
“To me a journey is an adventure where one gets to experience new cultures, languages and foods. It’s an experience where one gets to come across some of the most unexpected sights and people that can drastically change their views on an entire culture and religion. The last five days of my Spring Break 2016 was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had the opportunity to be a part of. Not only did I eat the best food I’ve ever had but I also got to know an entire world outside of my own.
USAC chose for us to travel by bus and boat in order to get to Morocco, instead of by plane. I never would have thought that I would enjoy a 10-hour trip so much. Just by being on a boat for 1 hour I met so many other USAC students that I had never had the chance to meet before.
Without taking buses and boats I would have never gotten to know the people I did, nor would I have seen the sights I did. This journey gave me a new concept to traveling. It’s the little things like, ones form of transportation that can completely change the way one sees a country entirely. The boat trip allowed us all to say that we have been on the Straits of Gibraltar connecting Spain to Africa. Something that not many people our age can say. So next time your only option is a bus or a boat, take it! You never know whom you’ll meet or what you’ll see.”
— Hope Olson (UNLV)
“Traveling by bus was longer travel time, but we created more memories this way. By the end of the week, we were a closer group of people and really showed our goofball sides. On the way back home, on our last day, we all got onto the ferry, put away our phones and took out cards. You could hear laughing coming from a group of girl playing charades, which but the time with got to the port in Spain, everyone was playing. We got to watch the sunset from the water, and take amazing photos of the Rock of Gibraltar. I couldn’t imagine this trip without these memories, and if we would have flown to Morocco, none of this would have ever happened. I am thankful for the moments on the boat and all the laughter and friends that came along with it.”
— Hayley Murphy (UNR)
The Places We Visited
“There is no doubt that the Morocco Field Study was the best trip I took in my eight months abroad. Every aspect of the excursion: the guides, the outings, the food, and the accommodation, was amazing. From the moment we stepped onto the ferryboat to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, I felt that every activity and every day got better and better.
The first drive we made to Assilah was breathtaking. The sparkling Mediterranean Sea, the white washed houses, and the green hills made the bus ride very pleasant. Assilah very much reminded me of Andalucía. The outdoor cafes, the small shops, the small children playing fútbol in the streets all reminded me of my travels to the south of Spain. The tour of the city and of the Women’s Association, Al Amal, and dinner at Dar Al Maghribia were an amazing start to our adventure.
The next city was Tangier. It was definitely my favorite city in the cultural aspect. Visiting the American Legation, DARNA Women’s Association, and speaking with the Moroccan students were most educational and interesting in my opinion.
The city of Tetouan followed the next morning. I loved the winding streets and busy market life, but I am completely positive that I would have gotten lost if Abdul, aka George Clooney, had not been guiding us.
That afternoon, we made it to Chaouen. The OAPAM NGO, the pastilla at Casa Aladdin, and the blue façades all around the city made for an enchanting couple of days. The view from the hotel terrace was one of my favorites of the entire trip, and my Moroccan bath experience was one not to forget.
The last day in Morocco and the ferryboat ride back to Spain allowed me to reminisce on my time abroad and the person who I have become. Not many students my age can say they have traveled via boat between Europe and Africa, let alone traveled to either continent. I am so grateful for this entire experience, thank you so much, USAC!”
— Paige Atkins (Clemson University)
“The trip began with a two days in Asilah where we began a slow transition into the culture and society of Morocco. It was a small town with a harbor where local fishermen would take in their catches for the day. We got a tour of the Medina and went and ate dinner in a local restaurant. The next day, we took the bus once again but this time stopping in Tangier where we received a guided tour of the American Legation Museum.
After, we left to meet up with some Moroccan students to debate current issues in Moroccan-EU relations. This was by far one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. The opportunity to socialize with locals provided unique insight into opposing and alternative viewpoints. After a long guided discussion, we ate traditional Moroccan cuscus, and then went on immediately to the Darna Women’s association.
Even though we would never have the opportunity to see the Moroccan friends we made during the day for the rest of the trip, we were still able to set up social media for potential visits in the future.
The day ended with a guided tour of Tangier before returning to Asilah. In the morning we departed for Chefchaouen making a brief stop on Tetouan where we received a guided tour of the Medina and had lunch. The last two days we spent in Chefchaouen which was by far my most favorite city. The city was draped in blue and radiated a unique cultural and historical context. The main day of activities consisted of a visit to the OAPAM (Blind women’s society) where students purchased a variety of goods, and a hike up to the local Mosque where we were able to see a splendiferous view of the blue city of Chefchaouen and the Mountainous Valley it resided in. The next morning we departed back to Spain, making a brief stop in Tangier-med for lunch before undertaking a long bus ride back to Alicante.”
— Lars Neuenschwander (Washington State University)
“One of my favorite memories I had in Morocco was meeting with the Moroccan students. We met with the Moroccan students in a city called Tangier. All the Americans and all the Moroccans spread out into different groups to talk about each other’s lives, lifestyle, and to ask any questions that we had for one another. The amount of things I learned from them, and the stories they told us about their life, amazed me. It was very interesting to speak with the Moroccan students because I was able to learn so much about their lifestyle and their religion. Meeting with the students is a memory that I will never forget and is something that will stick with me forever”.
— Courtney Hitzeman (NAU)
“I really enjoyed seeing all the organizations that help women. It really put into perspective how lucky I am to have the same opportunities as men. I really enjoyed how this trip took us to visit with many organizations that helped people.”
— Kathryn Mix (CSU; Northridge)
“Our trip to Morocco as a whole will stick with me forever. But if I had to choose one specific moment that stood out to me the most, I would have to say it was when we were driving back to Tangier Med to catch the fairy back to Spain on our last day. The bus drove us through the areas where Sub Saharans hide out in the bushes in hope to hop over the wall into Spanish territory. I realized that these people just want to live a better life and want the opportunity to live and work somewhere else. It made me want to try and help these people. It was a moment that will stick in my memory forever.”
— Allexandra Walters (NAU)
“The one thing that is going to stick out in my mind forever about Morocco is the Medinas, or the old city in each place. I fell in love with all the shops. It was one of my first experiences with bargaining and although I do not think I did very well, it was still fun to do. Each Medina in the four cities we went to had something special and different about it. The different architecture and art that was within the walls was amazing to see from throughout the years and in the case of Tangier many areas were used in famous movies as well. However, I believe my favorite medina was the one in Chaouen mainly because of how blue the city was. It was also a medina built in the mountains so the views were incredible.”
— Aliza Benitez (NAU)
“On our second day in Morocco we traveled to Tangier, the city in which we got to actually sit down and talk with Moroccan students for a few hours. This was an experience of a lifetime for me. This was the moment in our trip where I learned so much about the Islamic religion. I also learned about the stereotypes that exist between Muslims. My group also had this incredibly powerful conversation about how so many Americans view all Muslims as those who caused 9/11. This was a conversation I was almost scared to start, but it happened and they were equally as interested in the conversation as I was. We all came to this conclusion that it is not fair for a group of people to blame an entire culture or religion or country for the actions of just a few people. This experience has also really stuck with me because all the students I met that day have taken the chance to reach out to me and chat me on social media.”
— Hope Olson (UNLV)
“On day two, we had the pleasure to meet with the ALC and Moroccan students at this very interesting art factory. I was very excited to meet with the students and get an inside look on their lives in Morocco. In our group we talked about some controversial topics such as crime, immigration and religion. It was very interesting to learn and hear their opinion on Sub-Saharan immigration. This was something that really hit me hard because I can relate to them. I was able to share my Mexican culture and how my family moved to the United States when they were young, to work hard and get a better life.”
— Sonia Leal (CSU, Chico)
“The thing that I will remember most about this trip was learning about the Sub-Saharan immigrants. On the last day, we drove from Chefchaouen to Tangier where we had to catch the ferry to cross the Strait of Gibraltar and head back to Alicante. We passed by Ceuta so we could catch a glimpse of how Spain is trying to keep them from entering. People from southern Africa travel to Morocco to then try to enter Ceuta. It is a Spanish territory, and once there they are technically in Europe and cannot be deported. The entire city had a large fence bordering it and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Here people hide and wait until they try to cross into Spain. I It was very sad and definitely a culture shock, but I’m glad I saw it. It reminded me how lucky I am, and made me very thankful to have what I do and to live in a safe place. This experience was truly eye opening!”
— Ashley Potzernitz (Boise State University)
“One of the most unforgettable memories had to be visiting the OAPAM association for the visually impaired and blind woman. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and a greater understanding of how others live in such a different part of the world. With having so little, these people still graciously find ways to help others who are in need. I was so impressed by the man who was blind who showed us how he teaches visually impaired women how to make the djellabas. I also loved hearing the children sing the traditional hymns and listening to the stories everyone shared with us. I was so moved and so grateful for this trip.”
— Courtney Waked (NAU)
“My trip to Morocco was one unlike any other. It was as authentic of a trip as possible, considering we were a group of 30 American students. No camels, no deserts, no campfires. Just walking, watching, taking, and learning. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
— Delaney Pearce (New Mexico State University)
“I never imagined after all the traveling this semester that this trip would be my favorite trip. The cities were gorgeous, interesting and not what I expected, but that’s not why this trip was my favorite. It’s the people that we traveled with that made this trip so special and the activities that we did. I was so impressed by the cities we visited and the history and without USAC I wouldn’t have learned anything, I would have just been one of the many people who visited Morocco to ride a camel, instead I can say I now have new friends in Morocco. I loved our visits and really seeing the community of this cities. Everywhere we visited was so welcoming and they were so happy to share with us their story. Overall I loved every minute of this trip; the people, the cities, the adventures, and the memories created. It was an amazing and new way of learning and seeing cities from a different perspective. We wouldn’t have been able to do this by ourselves and everyone should take advantage of this trip.”
— Hayley Murphy (UNR)
“This trip to Morocco was something I will never forget. I am so grateful to USAC for everything they have done for us and planned for us. My heart is so full. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the locals, especially being able to have conversations and lunch with the students. Each town was so different and I loved being able to see and do so many different things in each one. I absolutely loved Morocco!”
— Courtney Waked (NAU)
“El tour de Marruecos fue una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida y estoy muy contenta de haber tomado la decisión de participar. La ciudad que más disfruté fue la ciudad de Chefchaouen. Esta ciudad es famosa por su belleza, el paisaje escénico y es conocida como la ciudad azul. Me quitó la respiración ver los hermosos tonos de azul que cubren casi todos los edificios y la arquitectura y estructura únicas de los mercados de la medina. La comida era increíble y la gente muy amable. La atmósfera de la ciudad era muy relajante, y al instante supe que iba a adorar el sitio.”
— Kendall Bancroft (University of Idaho)
“I am forever grateful to have gotten the opportunity to visit such an amazing country, filled with so much culture and color. Thank you USAC for this wonderful trip, I will never forgot it!”
— Sonia Leal (CSU, Chico)
“The USAC trip to Morocco overall was beyond amazing. I could not have asked for a better trip. We did not do touristy things, we visited four different cities and four different Medinas. Each city was very different and unique. I personally loved meeting with Moroccan students in Tangier and having the opportunity to talk with all of them and see their views, morals, and religious differences. We were able to ask each other questions and have great conversations about Morocco and the Muslim religion. Talking with them was so interesting. I also found visiting the blind association in Chefchaouen to be incredible. Were we able to watch one of the blind members make part of a blanket; it was so amazing how they were still able to produce beautiful blankets and work even though they cannot see what their hands are doing. I loved all of the activities that we did, and we still had plenty of free time. During our free time my we enjoyed walking around the cities, trying different teas, and walking through all of the shops. Morocco was the most incredible experience I could have asked for. I am so grateful for being able to visit and learn about life in Morocco.”
— Allexandra Walters (NAU)
This Moroccan experience and more is waiting for you — learn more about Alicante, Spain and the other field studies, trips and immersion opportunities at your finger tips!