Why I Chose to Study Abroad a Second Time

Education is a journey – of learning, growth, and numerous impactful life lessons. Attending school during a pandemic, however, adds an entirely new dimension to this journey. Factor in a literal journey across the globe to study abroad, and you’ve got an interesting situation.

I was well aware of this as I applied to study abroad in Meknes, Morocco for a second time. I knew that it would not be like my first program and that going abroad was all the more complex due to the current circumstances with COVID-19.

So why did I choose to study abroad again with ISA in Meknes, Morocco?

#1: The Impact of Going Abroad

A picture of me and my roommates, Jonathan and Hugo, during our first excursion in Casablanca!

My first semester abroad in Morocco during Fall 2019 had an enduring impact on me. Up until then, I’d never traveled alone before, especially across an ocean and away from everything I knew and loved back home. 

The first few weeks were tough. I had difficulty adjusting, I felt lonely some days, and I’d be lying if I said I never considered just going home. 

However, it wasn’t long before I fell thoroughly in love with my host community. The friends I made, the adventures we’d had, and the self-awareness and resiliency I developed were aspects of my time abroad I initially didn’t expect to encounter, but were nonetheless souvenirs I brought home with me. 

#2: Going Abroad Before Graduating

Another reason why I chose to return abroad is my upcoming graduation. I am currently a senior at Rowan University, and while I can always travel abroad after graduation, the opportunity to share this extraordinary experience with other students is something I believe is unique to study abroad programs.

To take courses in Arabic, Darija (Moroccan-dialect Arabic), and International Relations while in Morocco is absolutely invaluable, as your learning often extends beyond the confines of your classroom. Doing so alongside a small, yet diverse group of students makes this all the more memorable, as we have gone on to learn from and about one another while becoming a tight-knit family.

My former Arabic professor, Professor Zaki – one of my favorite people in Meknes!

#3: My Second Family Abroad

Finally, I chose to return to Morocco because of the people I met and the memories we made during my first program. I truly never imagined that I’d make so many friends and that they would become like my second family.

Presently, I haven’t been in Meknes very long, but I have already spent time with old friends and my previous host family, and I can say with confidence that, much like then, I feel right at home.

Thus, while my motivations for returning to Meknes are plenty, seeing the people who made my initial experience so unforgettable is perhaps the greatest.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I am lucky to have studied abroad, both in 2019 and presently. I am thankful to the ISA staff that worked tirelessly to plan and prep for this program, doing so with special consideration for COVID-19 and our safety in mind. And I’m grateful international programs like these exist and continue to thrive, offering life-changing, one-of-a-kind journeys to students everywhere.

Most of all, I’m just really glad to be back!

This is the famous Hassan the II Mosque in Casablanca – one of our first sights upon landing in Morocco, and one of my favorite memories from both of my times abroad with ISA!

Nadine El Maalem is a college student at Rowan University. She is an ISA Identity & Inclusion Featured Blogger and is studying abroad with ISA in Meknes, Morocco.

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