Alice Collins - French in Morocco
Initially, on the plane to Rabat, I felt very nervous about the family I was to stay with, the volunteers I’d meet and the new culture I was soon to be emerged in. However, as soon as I arrived and was greeted by a member of the Projects Abroad staff, I felt much more at ease.
I was taken to my host family where I was greeted by my host mum and dad, who offered me a meal even though it was past midnight! I loved this aspect of Moroccan hospitality; I was offered as much delicious food as I could eat! I slept like a baby in my rather luxurious double bed, ready for some new sights the next day. When I woke, I ate breakfast with another volunteer housemate, complete with Moroccan pastries and sweet mint tea.
I was met for my induction by the same member of staff who had picked me up the day before, and we took the tram to the Projects Abroad office, where I was given lots of useful information about the Moroccan culture, and any questions I had were answered. We went for lunch and he gave me a mini-tour of Rabat, which made me feel much more orientated, although it took me about two weeks to navigate my way round the maze-like Medina properly!
Travelling around Morocco
I had my induction on the Friday, so my French lessons didn’t start until the Monday. That meant I had the weekend free, and during my induction the staff informed me that the other volunteers were going to Marrakech that weekend, and if I would like to join them I could. I jumped at the chance! I met the other volunteers at the train station and they were so lovely and welcoming. We spent two nights in a beautiful hostel in Marrakech, visiting palaces and gardens and eating delicious food.
On other weekends, I managed to complete two day trips to Casablanca, the financial capital, and Meknes. A big group of us spent the weekend in Chefchaouen, and I have to say that this is, in my opinion, the most beautiful city in Morocco – a mountainous town with blue washed walls. If you do go to this town, you need to take a taxi ride to Akchour waterfalls for the day, where you can complete a three-hour hike and then swim in freezing but refreshing pools with the most stunning views. I will never forget this trip. I would also recommend visiting Tangier and Essaouira, with their beautiful beaches fit for swimming and relaxing.
My language placement
My French tutor lived in a house close to the Medina, so I could roll out of bed relatively late in the mornings! I had my lessons one-on-one, which was a huge benefit as it meant the lessons were directly tailored to my ability, and the topics I wanted to focus on. We managed to cover all the tenses and key grammatical aspects of the language, and she gave me French books to read to improve my sentence structure and vocabulary.
I had my lessons in the morning at first, then we shifted them to the afternoons during Ramadan. I spent my free time during the weekdays completing my French homework, which I actually enjoyed doing because I could feel my French improving all the time. The main thing I liked about the lessons was that we studied topics that were relevant to the world; for example, I did a presentation to my teacher each week about topics such as climate change, lack of drinking water, and even the presidential election!
My tutor was always patient with me, especially when my Manchester accent struggled with the French pronunciation! I was lucky enough to have a French roommate and a host mum that could speak perfect French, so I practised at home, as well as in the streets with locals. As a result, I really felt to have gained a substantial grasp of the language and I am so thankful for that!
Living in Rabat
Rabat is a beautiful city, and is a perfect base for volunteers during the week. The beach is gorgeous, you can see sunsets every night, and there are plenty of interesting restaurants and shops. I haven’t seen a city like it before. In particular, one thing that struck me is how friendly everyone is and how willing to help.
There is always a lot going on - for example, during the festival Mawazine, Ellie Goulding and Wiz Khalifa performed, while during the funfair by the marina, you can eat candyfloss and go on the rides during the nights of Ramadan.
I actually got the chance to live with two host families, as my first host mum was going to Mecca for Ramadan so this gave me a chance to explore a new area of the medina, and to meet some new people. I loved both my host mothers and houses, and they reminded me that I can always contact and see them if I return to Morocco, which I am certain that I will! I was always given three big meals a day, even during Ramadan, and usually we had Moroccan pancakes and honey for breakfast, then a larger meal for lunch usually with lots of meat and vegetables, and often pasta or a vegetable tagine for dinner. Each Friday we had couscous, which is a traditional Moroccan dish and I loved this fragrant colourful meal! I particularly enjoyed eating afternoon pastries with my host mum and her friends, or going to their houses where they did Henna on my hands for me!
If you visit Morocco during Ramadan, I would recommend visiting the Language Café group on the beach which meets every Wednesday night, to eat the Ramadan ‘breakfast’, and to dance and sing Karaoke with the other internationals and volunteers of Morocco. Rabat has a special place in my heart!
My overall experience
Reminiscing over all my warm memories of Morocco gives me a tinge of nostalgia, and my only regret is that I didn’t stay for longer. I have met friends for life all over the world, who I can’t wait to go and visit. I am so grateful to Projects Abroad for helping me create the best experience I could have asked for, and would definitely recommend the organisation to anyone seeking to travel or study a language in a new country!