An A for Effort

Moulay Ismail University
The front of Moulay Ismail University. The school is built in the old city walls, so it looks a bit like "an old castle," according to our baby sister.

“The presentations need to be 5, 10 or 15 minutes long.”

“…What? Are there any other requirements?”


If I said every class in Morocco was great, I’d be lying.

It’s not that I’m not learning. Oh no, that’s not the case at all. In the last month, I’ve learned more about life, love and what’s truly important than I could have ever learned at my home university. It’s just not always in the classroom.

I’ve heard from Moroccans students that class starts whenever, and sometimes it doesn’t start at all. Class could be 12 weeks long, or it could be 16. Sometimes, the teacher won’t turn up for a month, then tell his students to show up on a Saturday for 12 hours of lessons.

The difference here is Moroccan students don’t pay for their education. We do. But you can still see the influence of the Moroccan education system in our professors’ styles. For example, rolling into class 20 minutes late because seriously, I needed my coffee, wouldn’t fly in the U.S. But here, it’s cool, ‘cause your teacher probably showed up a bit late anyway, and if he didn’t, he’s still trying to get his computer to work.

And sometimes, there’s no structure to the lessons anyway, so turning up late didn’t make all that much of a difference. Sure, let’s talk about fruit exports then the political pressure from the Polisario Front within five minutes of each other, no big.

We don’t have much of a syllabus in any class, or if we do, we don’t stick with it for long, and when you’re only in class once a week for three hours, it doesn’t take much time for focus to wane.

I can’t say which format I prefer, though. I love sitting down and getting into a theoretical debate with 20 students about all sorts of different subjects. I love having the opportunity to sit down with my Arabic professor outside of class and discuss the Moroccan energy crisis or go with my Darija professor to the Medina of Meknes.

But I also like structure. I like knowing exactly how long my presentations need to be or when we’re going to have an exam or what’s going to be on it. I like knowing the best way to make up a sick day when a sick day means you’re gone from class for a full week. We’re heading into midterms, presentations and exams here in Morocco, and I have no idea what to expect. I used to complain in the U.S. about not knowing what to expect from professors. This is nothing.

That said, I wouldn’t have the opportunity back home to meet with professors and students outside of class to discuss politics, economics and intercultural communications. Sometimes learning in the classroom is difficult, both here and in the U.S. But in Morocco, there’s more emphasis on the learning outside the classroom.

Grades? Pft. Just learn.

Attendance? If you’re holding the class back, you better show up, otherwise, meh.

Stick to the material? Never.

I guess, just like everything else in Morocco, class is a little different.

Happy travels.

Katie Gillespie
Meknes, Morocco
Spring 2012

You can follow Katie’s other adventures on her personal blog

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