For the past few months I’ve been intensely focused on two things: honing my presentation to Rotary clubs, and finding ways to study derija. I have to say that I’m pretty satisfied with both of those projects right now.
However I was neglecting kind of a key aspect of preparation for next year until early last week, when I realized with a panic just how complicated it’s going to be to actually get enrolled in a Moroccan university. I called a few people in Morocco over a couple of days, scrambling to make the calls as early as possible, Chicago time. Most of the time, no answer. Finally, I reached a woman who picked up the phone at the main switchboard for Hassan II university. After indulging my very broken and totally inadequate derija, she put me on the phone with a woman who explained, in French, that I just couldn’t get enrolled directly as a foreign student. I would have to apply through the Agence de Cooperation Internationale.
OK, so at this point I’m a little relieved to get a straight answer and find out that there is actually a system. But I’m starting to understand more concretely what a former Ambassador Scholar to Morocco warned me about: forget about getting your confirmation before you leave the states. First of all, the process is long and typically closes around August. Second, I’m not even guaranteed to go to Hassan II.
Here’s another interesting development, one you might even call a “game-changer.” A professor at Hassan II, who is also very implicated in the Chicago committee of Casa Sister-City dropped this bomb on me: All the sociology, geography, and history classes are in Arabic.
I’ve been operating under the assumption that at least some classes would be in French. Four years ago a friend who was getting her Master’s in economics at Mohammad V (in Rabat) was taking classes in French, so I don’t think it was unreasonable to expect at least some classes in French.
I’m still doing some detective work to find out if this Arabic-only classes thing applies only to one campus of Hassan II or all of them. More on that later.
In the meantime, the Plan B suggested to me by my Sister-City prof doesn’t look too bad: I would major in American Studies.
Now before you get too excited over the irony of an American exchange student majoring in American Studies, here are some examples of classes I could take:
“Survey of Arabic and American Linguistics”
“Cultural History of Moroccan–American Relations”
“Issues in Contemporary Moroccan Literature”
“Language Policies in Morocco and in the US”
“American Travellers in the Maghreb”
“The Maghreb In the American Cinema”
“Issues in Moroccan American Politics”
In other words, the classes seem to focus not just on the U.S., but rather on its relationship to Morocco. This interests me very much of course, as does the prospect of taking classes with Moroccans who are eager to learn about the country I’ll be representing.
All this hints at what a couple of former ambassadorial scholar friends have been telling me: make plans, but accept that things might turn out to be nothing like what you planned. I suppose this is good advice to life generally, but it’s really helpful to hear this now, when it’s so easy to get carried away with larger-than-life plans.