Brandeis University Admissions
A Dream Study Abroad Experience
Amelia T. ’24
When Amelia T. ’24 arrived in Morocco in the fall semester of 2022 to study abroad, it was the first time she’d set foot outside the United States.
“If you’re considering going abroad - do it,” says the English and sociology major, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow. “You have to take that leap of faith, get on that plane, and do that for yourself. It’s worth it.”
Brandeis students have more than 150 study abroad program opportunities to explore in 60 different countries. The Brandeis Office of Study Abroad helps students identify the right academic, linguistic, and cultural fit to make the most of their time studying away from campus.
Want to know more about Amelia’s experience? Take it from them.
What inspired you to study abroad?
I’ve always known I wanted to travel abroad. Growing up I had never traveled outside of the United States because my family couldn’t afford it. I knew I wanted to be one of those people who traveled, so I made it a goal of mine to study abroad once I came to college.
Something I worried about when applying for study abroad programs was the cost aspect of it; the best advice I can give to anyone is to apply to as many scholarships as you can. Your study abroad advisors can recommend scholarships that fit your study abroad program and field of study. With the help of the office of study abroad, I was able to secure a grant from the Crown Center for Middle East Studies that covered my expenses.
How did you decide that Morocco was the destination for you?
I fortunately had Ari Kramer, a Brandeis study abroad advisor, by my side throughout the whole application process. He helped me shape my semester and walked me through the different programs to help me find the best fit. Morocco quickly stood out to me for a few reasons.
I studied French for three semesters at Brandeis, so I knew I wanted to go somewhere that gave me the opportunity to continue to speak the language. As a Cambodian American, I found it fascinating that both Cambodia and Morocco had been colonized by the French, so I wanted to explore that aspect during my study abroad.
What did you study during your semester abroad?
The courses I participated in while abroad contributed to my majors and minor at Brandeis.
I took Arabic, gender and society, and North African cultural identities courses. I also participated in a research internship through an Arabic research center, studying women’s political position in Morocco and the Moroccan education system. My internship was primarily remote, with communications taking place in the form of emails.
Every week I was asked to submit research requests to my supervisor. I would receive feedback that would include how I might improve my research findings. This was my first experience in research, so I found myself getting better and better as I learned from my mistakes.
What was your most memorable experience during your trip?
I’ll never forget my experience traveling to the Sahara Desert. We rode on camels and stayed overnight. It was very cold, but magical. Looking up at the night sky - you won’t see stars like that anywhere else in the world.
It was also amazing being in Morocco during the World Cup. Morocco was the first African nation to make it to semi-finals. Watching the games in a room full of excited people and walking through the streets after a win was an amazing experience. You could just feel that joy, happiness, and national pride everywhere.
How would you describe a ‘day in the life’ during your time in Morocco?
I typically woke up around 7 a.m. to enjoy the breakfast that was made for me by my host family. Out the door after eating, I’d explore Medina, the older part of the city, before getting to school at 8:30 a.m.
Typically I had one to two classes a day. If it was a shorter day I’d spend time with a friend, sipping mint tea at a local cafe. We spent a lot of time at local gardens and cafes. After the day was done I returned home to have dinner with my host family before studying. It was really nice living with a host family because I immersed myself in the languages I was learning. During dinner, my host mom would always quiz me on the Darija words for different utensils.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome during your semester abroad?
Going into my trip I knew French, but wasn’t familiar with Arabic. I found myself navigating three different languages throughout the day. Many local spots, like cafes, I could speak French. During my introductory Arabic course I learned to speak foss-ha, فصحة, or formal Arabic.
However, my host family only spoke Darija, a spoken Arabic dialect widely used in Morocco, which was a completely different language. I worked hard to pick up this language because it was our only way to communicate. I wanted to show how much I respected their house.
It was challenging toggling between the three, but also was a nice experience because I love learning new languages.
What is your biggest takeaway from this experience?
I have always held a passion for education. I was originally planning to become a university professor after all of my schooling and considered focusing on sociological or literary specializations. Living in Morocco made me realize that there are other opportunities to teach while feeling happy and content in the space that I am in. As a result, I am now considering teaching English in Morocco after graduation.
This past summer, I taught writing to rising high school students, a job that furthered my interest in teaching. I can see my future shifting and changing, but I’ve realized I’m alright with that. I went to Morocco because I wanted to be changed and grow as a person.