Zebra Tales
Zola '23

First Days in Morocco

Last night, I sat in a living room in Rabat, Morocco and watched an American action film about the FARC in Colombia dubbed in French. I was experiencing my first night with my host family on an Arabic summer NSLI-Y program.
But what is NSLI-Y? NSLI-Y, or National Security Language Initiative for Youth, is a State Department-funded program that gives American high school students the chance to study “critical languages” that are not frequently taught in the U.S. for free. The scholarship covers programs that teach Arabic, Korean, Chinese, Turkish, Russian, Farsi, Hindi, and Bahasa Indonesian for either seven weeks in the summer or an entire academic year. I applied last October, landed an interview in December, took Dr. Ibrahim’s Classical Arabic and the Quran class in the winter, heard the good news during spring break, and landed in Casablanca in mid-June.

I live in the capital, just a few minutes walk from our language school. The other nineteen students on this program are scattered about the city. Each morning I walk to school while others take the Tramway or Petit Taxi. We learn Arabic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and then find lunch. In the afternoons we may meet with our language partners to learn Arabic out on the streets, or we may participate in cultural activities in and around Rabat.

None of us knew much Arabic at the outset of this program, but by August we had learned a year’s worth of Arabic! I left feeling content with my ability to hold basic conversations in Arabic and move around Rabat with confidence.