Morocco Study Abroad Pt. 2: Sahara Desert

Morocco has abundance of diverse landscapes; from the crashing waves of the coast, jagged mountains in its center, to the mysteries of the desert in the east. Two other AMIDEAST students and I decided to check visiting the Sahara Desert off the bucket list and took a two hour train ride followed by a ten hour overnight bus to the far east town of Merzouga. Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host at the local Riad (a Moroccan styled hotel) where we rested before going on our two day camel trek.  Our guide, Youssef, greeted us in a bright, sapphire colored gown and dark headscarf.  Each of us took turns getting on our seated camel, and holding on for dear life as not to get flung off when it stood up. We departing in the early evening as the beating sun set and the temperature cooled.  After riding our camels for an hour and a half, we arrived to an abandoned nomad village.  Under a fire and the light of a small solar lamp, our guide made fresh Tajine, a vegetable and meat stew.  After the meal, we arranged blankets outside one of the crumbling clay houses and slept under the stars.  The silence of the desert and brightness of the stars was unlike any other. The land and the sky harmonized and formed a feeling of peace.

In the morning, we trekked to a nomad’s house in the black desert, a part of the Sahara characterized by coal colored rocks and sand. As we continued our journey, we could see the plateaued mountains of Algeria along the horizon.   We arrived at our lunch spot where we would spend majority of the day under a collection of trees to wait out the heat before continuing our journey. We were served a fresh salad and a nomad prepared “Pizza.” He stretched out the dough, placed a mixture of vegetables and spice, rolled it into a calzone. He then put out a brush fire he lit previously, and underneath revealed a mosaic of black rocks that were heated from the flame. He placed the pizza on top of the rocks and covered it with a metal tin, and let it cook for 30 minutes.  The other students and I paid close attention to the traditional cooking techniques, joking how it would be our new party trick at the next barbeque we attend back home. As the sunlight became dim, we trekked another hour to our final destination in the desert, a collection of caravan tents. We met several groups of people taking part in a similar excursion as us, and we all shared a delicious meal together. After dinner, all the guides collected together with drums and began to play while humming and chanting in Tamazight, the language of the Amazigh (or Berber) people. The Amazigh are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa and they have a large presence in Morocco. Their language differs from Arabic in letters and over thirty variations can be heard spoken in the MENA region.  After the music and late night sand boarding, we returned the caravan where we once again set our beds under the stars. The night consisted shooting stars and the brisk bites of the freshly cooled air.

We woke up at the break of dawn and completed our trek back to Merzouga on the richly pigmented sands with the sunrise behind us. The journey to the Sahara was and will be one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had.  It was incredible to spend a few days in the desolate and peaceful land and also learn more about the culture of the Amazigh people that inhabit the region.

Morocco Study Abroad Pt. 1: The Beginning

Since the moment I landed in Morocco, this study abroad experience has been nothing short of an adventure. Taxiing over to Rabat, I quickly blended into the hive of 26 other confused Americans, all sharing their university and degrees, while desperately trying to recall the others’ names. When I share my background of aviation with Embry-Riddle, I get the usual squinty, confused face followed by questions such as “How many planes crash on average?” and “Are airplanes really safe?”

We spent orientation at the Oumlil Hotel, a 4 start hotel in the neighborhood Adgal. I like to think of “4 stars” as where a maximum of 4 out of 5 of the basic necessities will be available at any given moment: lights, air conditioning, wi fi, plumbing, and locks. The service received, however, was unlike any other with warm genuine greetings from everyone coupled with quick assistance to address any of our concerns.

During the first week, we dove right into the nitty gritty of everything we will love about being abroad, as well as the challenges we will endure. This included topics such as culture shock, or adjusting food and water; I have yet to get sick, Allhamdulila. Included in our orientation was a day dedicated to sightseeing the major sites of Rabat, where we toured through the fascinating Roman ruins of Chellah, saw the tombs of the previous King in the elaborate architecture of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, and concluded with venturing through Kasbah de Oudaias, a 12th century gateway that leads into a charming neighborhood of white and blue houses overlooking the Atlantic.

After a few days into orientation, we were paired off and greeted by our host parents. We taxied over to the neighborhood L’Ocean, a quiet mosaic of tall apartments near the water.  I was thrilled to meet my host family, and equally “thrilled” to learn they did not speak a word of English.  This is the case with most host families that work with AMIDEAST, the program I am studying abroad through. This immersion technique has demonstrated improvement of a student’s language abilities, or in my case, skills in Charades.

Three weeks in, we have been saturated with information and the pace has stayed the same since orientation with the start of classes and participation in out-of-class cultural learning activities. As the dust settles and routine kicks in, I look forward to the learning this study abroad experience continues to hold. I plan to be abroad for the academic year to get a prolonged immersion experience, and this whirlwind of a start is only the beginning.

I’m in Ireland Right Now on Study Abroad!

I love this University, the people in it, and the things I get to do which right now includes the travel portion of my semester-long Ireland course through the College of Security and Intelligence. Follow my Facebook posts below to see what we’ve been doing…and just remember, as a student at ERAU you can do this too!

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Road Trippin’ – University isn’t just about studying – get out and experience the U.S.!

One of the greatest things about Prescott isn’t its surroundings (although they are GORGEOUS). The best thing about Prescott is its location between numerous travel destinations. Not only is it centrally located 4-5 hours between ~11 national parks, it is only 4 hours drive from Las Vegas and 6 hours drive from downtown LA. Those locations don’t appeal to you? No problem, check out Lake Powell, or SixFlags Magic Mountain in CA, the Grand Canyon, or Moab, UT, or…..

You get the point. Check out the video below to see a few of the locations mentioned above, which I have had the amazing opportunity to visit! [And remember, I’m only a freshman!]

 

 

There are so many out of state road trip opportunities near to Prescott, when coupled with all the things there is to do IN Prescott you’ll never find yourself short on things to do.

Flying home for break?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you plan on flying home for Christmas break it might be better to book those tickets now if you haven’t already!! Ticket prices can increase exponentially over the holidays as families try to get their loved ones together for the occasion, so don’t get stuck with out transportation or worse yet, a very expensive travel bill!!!

Most college students who have to fly home for the holidays buy their tickets months ahead of time. We like to do this because the tickets are cheaper, we can plan around our finals, and as Christmas gets closer we won’t spend most of your gift money on a plane ticket.

This is basically a plane ticket home from college

Buying a ticket and flying home by yourself may seem a little scary for those first timers but, don’t worry it’ll be fine. Its really not as difficult as it seems. What I would advise a first timer to do is research the luggage requirements, terminal location, and the baggage check process. Once you know what to do its really no big deal. It is also extremely important to arrive early at the airport and if possible have someone drive you. This way you don’t have to worry about parking a car or paying to park a car. It s a lot easier that way!!!

I hope these tips have been helpful 🙂 Happy Holidays Everyone!!!