Study abroad trip to Middle East/North Africa region is a Moroccan Adventure

November 29, 2017

Claire BoyleLisle, Illinois ~ Balmy, sun-soaked and sandy Morocco was the destination for Benedictine University’s first faculty-led study abroad trip to the Middle East and North Africa region.

The spring sightseeing adventure, which was the highlight of the class, “Introduction to Study Abroad: Life in Morocco: History and Culture,” included five students led by faculty members Vince Gaddis, Ph.D., professor of History, and Latifa Bounou, Ph.D., assistant professor of Arabic in the Department of Foreign Languages.

Bounou, who is from Morocco, came to Benedictine in 2014 as part of a Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Education grant to develop the minor in Arabic and improve the Middle East concentration in the Global Studies major.

On the faculty-led trip, she became the de facto tour guide, leading the group through the mountainous city of Agdz, the port cities of Casablanca and Essaouira, and the old imperial cities of Fes, Marrakesh and Meknes. Other stops included Taroudant, Volubilis and the desert towns of Ouarzazate and Zagora.

The experience was eye-opening for Claire Boyle, a junior Global Studies major (and Arabic minor), as it was her first trip outside of the United States and provided an opportunity to use Arabic in a native-speaking country.

“We toured through some mosques, markets, historical structures and saw a religious ceremony,” Boyle said. “We also learned how to cook at the kasbah in the desert and enjoyed some musical performances. The second week we toured the old town of Medina and took a day trip to some Roman ruins.

“In Morocco, I saw how people enjoy their lives at a slower pace with fewer things,” she added. “I am hoping I can go back soon if the Morocco trip is offered again, which I hope it will be.”

As part of the trip, students were required to select a topic on Moroccan life, history or culture to study while abroad.

Gaddis said the trip to Morocco is part of other efforts to expand Benedictine’s presence in the Middle East through partnerships with other universities and programs, such as the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative. Benedictine is one of six other U.S. institutions that offer the summer program, which brings student leaders from Middle Eastern countries to campus for an intensive program of leadership training and civic responsibility in a democratic society.

“Study abroad opens the student to learning in a high impact way,” he said. “When you see another country and learn to appreciate its history, its struggles and its triumphs, you can see that there is more to the world than the American perspective.”

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls more than 5,000 students in 59 undergraduate and 23 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the seventh consecutive year in 2017. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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