‘Always Something New to Learn’
OWU Student Studies Arabic in Morocco
By Cole Hatcher
Name: Ahmed Hamed ’20
Majors: Accounting and International Studies
Minor: Politics and Government
Hometown: Hilliard, Ohio
Experience: Hamed traveled to Morocco this summer and spent six weeks studying Arabic through the Arabic Language summer study abroad program overseen by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). He earned a competitive Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) to help support the experience.
How would you describe your typical day in Morocco?
“A typical day began at 9 a.m. with the Modern Standard Arabic class. We had this class every weekday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Three days a week after lunch we had a class that taught Colloquial Moroccan Arabic, as well, for two hours (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.)
“Most days there were planned cultural activities, including cultural discussions (like talking about the Islamic holiday/month of Ramadan), dance workshops, beach visits, etc. One to three days a week, I volunteered with some other students at a local community center where I helped teach English to some students. There was, of course, the studying and homework that comes along with academics as well.”
What goals did you have for this travel-learning experience?
“My main goal was to improve my Arabic skills as much as possible. I tried to take advantage of different opportunities to do so. When I would go shopping in the medina (old city), I would strike up conversations with shop owners and do the same during cab rides.
“There were a few native Arabic-speaking students whom I would talk to from time to time in just Arabic so we could practice. I would do the same with our ‘Buddies,’ who were university students that helped with our different cultural activities.
“In class I was restricted to only using Modern Standard Arabic, forced to not use any of my own dialect, which helped improve my skills tremendously. The Colloquial Moroccan Arabic Class forced me to think more dynamically about the language of Arabic itself and how languages evolve in general.”
What most surprised you while on your trip?
“I was surprised by how easily I fell into place. While the first few days of classes I had trouble adjusting, I was good the entire rest of the trip. I am fortunate enough to have experience traveling to other MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries, which helped a lot.
“I was also not prepared for how much the French language was utilized in Morocco. Not knowing any French, it became a challenge in different situations. For example, when I would go to restaurants I was unable to read the menus because most were in French.”
How will the experience affect your remaining time at OWU?
“This trip has taught me to not limit myself as I finish my time at OWU and to also use that time to prepare for my future. I met many amazing individuals while abroad who have all inspired me immensely.
“It has also shown me even more to take advantage of as many travel opportunities as possible because, even if you have traveled extensively, there’s always something new to learn.”
How will the trip affect your future plans?
“This trip has served to solidify my plans for both the near and far future. Going to law school, studying business, and working internationally remain very much at the core of what I plan to do in the future.”
Do you have a favorite memory?
“One of my favorite memories was one night during Ramadan when we had a potluck Iftar. Iftar is the meal during Ramadan that breaks the fast. One night we had an Iftar at the study abroad center where people cooked, brought in drinks, desserts, etc., and we all broke bread together. While the meal itself was great, everything about that day was amazing, including cooking with everyone, watching movies, and waiting for sunset so that we could eat.”
Why did you choose Ohio Wesleyan?
“I chose Ohio Wesleyan to take advantage of the wide range of opportunities offered outside the classroom, especially travel and internships. I also wanted a school where I could make close connections with faculty and staff and an education that would prepare me for graduate school.”
What are your plans after graduation?
“After graduation I'm looking to attend law school and pursue a Master's Degree.”