Going to Morocco for the summer was definitely the most significant, life-changing thing to happen to me, and I truly mean that. I didn’t even think that I would like traveling, but once you get a taste for it, you get the travel bug and you want to explore the world. The program I ended up choosing wasn’t actually one that CSI ran specifically, it was part of the College Consortium of International Studies (CCIS). It sounds complicated but the process was really simple. There’s this book of countries all over the world, and study abroad programs in each of them that you can participate in for a multitude of projects. I opened up the book, came across Morocco, and I was settled. For a short time I thought that the Thessaloniki program that CSI offers was for me, but Morocco seemed so interesting and foreign, and the thought of learning Arabic and having that under my belt was just too tempting to pass up.
Morocco itself was an amazing country. Al-Akhawayn, the university I studied and lived at for two months, was a fantastic place. Everyone in program was bunked up with a Moroccan student taking summer classes, and I had the pleasure of having the son of the program director as my roommate. We were as thick as thieves and hung out a lot in the local city of Ifrane, which is actually in the hinterlands of the Atlas Mountains, and it actually snowed when I was there in the middle of the summer. The program scheduled us two field trips, one to Marrakech, the famous historical city in Morocco with winding alleyways in its Old Medina, and the other to Merzouga, which was an oasis in the middle of the Sahara desert. While those two trips were indeed fun, I had my more memorable experiences on the weekend trips I planned with the friends I made there. Chefchauen, the blue city, was by far my favorite place there. I enjoyed it so much that I went twice with two different groups of people just because it was such a fascinating place.
One of the most intimidating prospects of studying abroad is getting into a program and funding it, but there are plenty of opportunities for one to get grants or scholarships. The CSI Center for International Service has plenty of scholarships and grants available to students for the programs they host; however, there are plenty of other funding opportunities outside of the CUNY system that they can get information for you on and assist you in applying to. The Gilman International Scholarship is one in particular because it is the one that I was awarded and allowed me to participate in this adventure. The application process was very straightforward; if you're a Pell Grant recipient, fill out a few pieces of information about yourself and write relatively short essays about why you think you should be awarded the grant to study abroad and your proposed follow-on project.
Studying abroad changed my life, so much so that I have not stopped spreading the news about it since I came back. In fact, during the 2014 fall semester, I helped a classmate get information on studying abroad as well as do research for scholarships and grants, and she is currently studying abroad in Paris, France for the 2015 spring semester. Studying abroad is something every student should have the opportunity to do, and when in doubt on whether or not this is for you, remember that you only live once, so you might as well make it interesting.