Morocco 2013 | المغرب ٢٠١٣

Sixty Days in Morocco: My Adventures in Tangier

| ستين يوما في المغرب: مغامراتي في طنجة

American novelist Wendell Berry once said of traveling, “Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond.” When in the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Morocco through the Critical Language Scholarship, I truly realized the critical importance of communication. The scholarship provided for eight credits of Arabic in an eight-week intensive program abroad, fully funded by the United States Department of State. Acceptance into the program required extensive written communication skills, which manifested themselves in personal statements and essays, but as soon as I arrived in Tangier I realized that spoken and non-verbal communication were going to play critical roles in my experience.

While in Morocco, though my primary role was as a student, I wanted advantage of time outside of class to try to engage with the residents of Tangier. For the first two weeks of the program, this task was made nearly impossible: I spoke fus’ha, or Modern Standard Arabic, and the individuals I met spoke mainly darija, the local Moroccan dialect. Fus’ha is mainly used in pan-Arab media outlets, and is distinctly different from darija in everything from verb conjugation to pronunciation. This made communication difficult, and I found it challenging to make connections. Our first day in Tangier, one of our first tasks was to go find a driver of a “grand taxi” (the public vehicles that take Moroccans between cities) and ask him what his destination was. I remember being pushed to the point of tears when he could not understand what I was asking him. These fundamental issues of communication were exacerbated by the fact that all of the American students had signed a language pledge, agreeing not to speak anything but Arabic to one another for the duration of the program.

By week six of the program, however, I felt comfortable enough with my increasing fluency in Arabic to interview Moroccan university students about their experience growing up in North Africa. The majority of the students echoed the sentiments of the Arab Spring protestors: frustrations with globalization, high unemployment, political disempowerment and Western intervention. Though many of the challenges I experienced while studying abroad in Morocco were directly related to my fluency in Arabic, while abroad I was able to discover for myself the common bond between humans. 

Media Stories About My Experience

19 Sept. 2013: "LSU Gold: Moroccan Summer" by Kittu Pannu

"Taking the trip of a lifetime, Logan de La Barre-Hays, political science and international studies senior, immersed herself in the Arabic language and Moroccan culture this summer when she embarked on an eight-week study abroad experience in Tangier, Morocco..."

13 May 2013: LSU Media Center Student Spotlight

"De La Barre-Hays is one of approximately 610 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State’s CLS Program in 2013..."

The header photograph was taken of Logan de La Barre-Hays by Lauren Lehmen in Asilah, Morocco.

All photographs and images used on this website are the property of Logan de La Barre-Hays, and are subject to copyright.