Sarah Senior is a recent graduate from the University of Montana with a degree in Central and Southwest Asian Studies who studied in Morocco at Al Akhawayan University during the spring of 2013. She has been nominated for Peace Corps service with a tentative nomination to Albania sometime next year, where she would be teaching English to secondary students. Sarah explained how Eastern Europe was not a place that she had given much consideration for but she decided to do something different. She knows that her nomination country could be different from her invitation country, but is excited to serve regardless of her future host country. Prior to studying abroad Sarah had taken French and Arabic classes which she utilized during her time abroad. We asked Sarah several questions about her experience abroad.
Sarah captured at Jemmaa el-Fnaa Square in the old city part of Marrakech
Describe some challenges you faced while communicating abroad?
I looked of European descent so when I would try to interact with locals they would instantly start talking in French. However, if I were in the north the locals would start speaking Spanish to me. When I would use the Arabic that I had learned in the classroom, it was very formal and many of the locals were not as familiar with it because of the high illiteracy rate there.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment for you?
Being a female in Morocco I faced more issues than my male peers. If other male peers weren’t around me I would face harassment on the street, people would catcall at me or say weird things. Just to be cautious, I never wore short sleeve shirts or shorts. I was always certain to wear pants or a scarf around my neck. However, campus was more liberal so I was able to wear short sleeves.
What was your favorite experience while studying abroad?
The friends that I made from all over the world that I still keep in contact with! I didn’t have difficulty making friends because all of the exchange students came together. It was sink or swim, so we all helped each other out.
How did studying abroad help enhance your education?
Studying abroad gave me a different perspective of the world, it gave me more focus on what I want do as a career as well as continuing my education with grad school. I would like to work for the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.
Do you feel that studying abroad has widened you view of the world?
Definitely! I got to meet people from all over the world and learn about a culture different from my own. It changed my life in a positive way.
What advice would you give to someone who is contemplating studying abroad but is still on the fence?
Even if you’re considering it, make the leap! I have other friends that attended different universities and their biggest regret was not going. You don’t know where it could take you. Studying abroad could lead you to a job opportunity or a maybe new academic path. If you’re worried about the cost issue, I was able to use all my financial aid during my exchange semester. Also, don’t think that studying abroad delays your graduation. I changed majors, added a minor, and studied abroad. I graduated with my degree ahead of schedule in three years!