Soaking Up the Last Bits of America

SO in case you didn’t read in the assorted Westminster newspapers, I was lucky enough to be upgraded from alternate to finalist in the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship program, which earns me an all expenses paid trip to an intensive Arabic language institute  in Meknes, Morocco. Apparently like 500 people are selected from about 5000 applicants, so I’m pretty excited and honored to have this opportunity.

I found out that I had received the scholarship in the first week of May, so the time since has been a rush of filling out forms and preparing to spend another stint in Africa. This culminated this weekend in getting dropped off at a hotel in DC for a 2 day orientation and meeting all of the other participants from all over the country. Everyone is feeling approximately the same burning nerves as we try to figure out what is in store for us, but we do know some things:

-We will be in class 20 hours a week; 16 studying modern standard Arabic and 4 studying Darija, the Moroccan dialect. Darija is a mix of Arabic, French, and the Berber language, so it is an entirely different beast from the other dialects that I have been studying. We are supposed to be covering about a years worth of material in the 8 weeks that we are abroad.

-I will be staying in a homestay with another CLS student, so we will get the full immersion experience with a family that probably doesn’t speak any English. I think that our family consists of just a husband and wife, so I guess we can be some replacement children.

-We have to sign a language pledge upon arrival to Morocco, so hopefully this experience will be a much more intense one than my time in Egypt. We will be paired with language partners who will be helping us to make the most of our time in country and help us study.

-We have to take a placement exam, which everyone is currently stressing over. I’ve kinda come to trust where placement exams put you, so I’m not trying to cram before hand; the worst possibility would be being placed in a class way over your head.

-I’m doing decent at making some friends for this experience, so we will see how that goes…

After the long orientation process today, my and some of these new acquaintances decided to go a-walking around the city. This turned into a monument tour that included the White House, the Washington Monument, WWII Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the new MLK monument. I guess it works to stuff as much Americana in ourselves before we go to completely immerse ourselves in a new and exciting culture.

Be patient with me; I promise to have some fun pictures and stories up before too long!

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