Alumni Spotlight: Chenise Calhoun

Chenise Calhoun studied abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco in Fall 2017 before graduating from Towson University. Chenise was so impacted by her semester abroad that she went on to do the Peace Corps in Morocco! Chenise shares her experience studying abroad in Morocco, working as a Youth Development Specialist and having to return home early as a result of COVID-19.

1.What was your experience like studying abroad in Morocco?

I studied in Meknes, Morocco, and as a French major, I decided to do a French homestay. This is where I met three of my best friends who also became my roommates. I was also an Arabic student, so I took the advanced Standard Arabic course, four other courses, and I audited the Darija (Moroccan Arabic) course. It was a great way to strengthen my language skills!

2. How did your time abroad in Meknes with ISA influence your professional goals?

My program with ISA definitely changed my life. About a year after I graduated, in the spring of 2019, I went on to do Peace Corps in Morocco, serving as a Youth Development Specialist. My study abroad experience in-country was what made me stand out among the other volunteers. And due to prior language experience, I was placed in the training group with the highest Arabic level alongside five students who ended up becoming my best friends. We worked exceptionally well as a team. We learned from each other and grew together as a result of our different backgrounds and experiences. This ultimately led us to perform exceptionally well on our own once we had to separate and move to our final sites after training.

3. What were some of your main responsibilities as a Peace Corps Volunteer Youth Development Specialist?

My role in site was to conduct needs assessments in the community, teach English and French to women and youth, and engage community members in service projects. Though I was only a resident of the community for three and a half months, my relationships with many of the community members grew tremendously in such a short amount of time. A few families invited me over for Kaskrut, I always chatted with the shop owners on my way back home, and kids would run to the Youth Center once they saw that I was going to be there!

4. What was the biggest challenge for you when you had to return home as a result of COVID-19?

Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, Peace Corps Global evacuated all of their Peace Corps Volunteers in March of 2020. This was extremely shocking and disheartening for all of us, especially since the evacuation was so abrupt. Many of the volunteers in my cohort had just finished our In-Service Training, so we were all eager to get back to our sites with new ideas. Many of us never got the chance to say “goodbye” to our communities or host families, including me. But I am back in the States safe and am grateful.

5. What have you been up to since returning home from Morocco in March?

Right now, I am a graduate student at Tulane University in a French studies PhD program. Continuing from the summer, I’ve been tutoring students in French and Arabic online, while receiving tutoring in Portuguese and Swahili. I’m also staying in contact with friends and family who have supported me and who I’ve supported throughout this difficult year. My connection to Morocco runs deep due to those two life-changing experiences, and I know I will return soon. 

Inspired by Chenise’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in an abroad experience? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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