By Olivia Montes
Elm Staff Writer
Washington College first established a connection with Al Akhawayan University in Ifrane (AUI) in Morocco in 1995, but a recent on-site visit by Dr. Andrew Oros, professor of political science and international studies and associate dean for international education, prompted a new idea.
“Dr. Oros realized AUI was the perfect place for underclassman to study abroad and complete distribution requirements. Not only do they have the coursework WC requires all in English, but the campus and university is organized very similarly to WC,” Alexandra Levy, the assistant director of the Study Abroad program, said.
In light of this realization, the Global Education Office is launching a new pilot program to bring a group of between six to 10 students to AUI next spring.
Al Akhawayan University is located in Ifrane, a popular tourist destination in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
While they encourage current first-year students to consider the program because of the availability of distribution courses in the AUI curriculum, sophomores majoring in business management, computer science, and international studies could also benefit from AUI classes their junior year.
Echoing Levy’s earlier statement, Dr. Oros highlighted the multiple similarities to WC.
“This group trip gives students a chance to study in a very different sort of country and cultural location while still being at a school very similar to WC, about 2,000 students, small classes, outside of a big city, and with friends,” Dr. Oros said.
According to Levy, these commonalities can be especially reassuring for students who may find spending a semester abroad intimidating.
“Sometimes studying abroad can be daunting because it’s a lot of new things at once, so having a campus environment that feels familiar can be hugely helpful when students are going abroad for the first time,” Levy said.
She also stressed the importance of stepping outside the familiar, despite the temptation to seek the company of fellow Americans or WC students while abroad.
“However, the cultural environment is obviously vastly different from Maryland’s Eastern Shore so there is so much for our students to learn and see. By studying abroad, you develop and sharpen skills that are invaluable post-graduation: cross-cultural communication, flexibility and adaptability, teamwork, independence. So not only can studying abroad expand your worldview and your academic sphere, but it can give you an advantage in the job-market,” she said.
“The idea of a group semester-long study abroad experience is new — but WC students have been studying abroad in Morocco for over twenty years. Studying abroad in less ordinary locations can make a resume stand out from the crowd, and experience living in a very different culture from one’s own can be eye-opening in myriad ways,” Oros said.
Junior Felicia Attor is one such student who previously studied abroad at AUI.
“Studying abroad in Morocco was a fantastic experience I would never trade for anything. I met incredible people, fell in love with the beautiful cities and towns, the food, the culture, and the amazing hospitality of Moroccans. In as much as I love WC, I strongly believe there would have been no way I could have formed the relationships and bonds I did if I did not go abroad,” she said.
One factor that may increase the appeal of AUI is that it is a full-exchange program, which means that students pay tuition, room, and board to the College instead of paying AUI’s tuition, room, and board fees.
“The benefit of a full-exchange program is that you pay the base housing price to WC at $3,000 per semester, and the T-19 meal plan and receive comparable accommodations abroad. Paying for meal-plans in advance is a very American-college thing, so as a result, not many of our partner universities can offer meal plans or be full exchange,” she said.
In addition to the affordability of the program, Attor recommended AUI to current students by recalling her own positive experience there.
“Apart from being cost effective, Morocco as a country offers a wide variety of captivating sceneries making travelling extremely fun and your need or desire to always learn or discover something new is realized with each place you visit. It is, however, difficult to sum up my experience in Morocco because it was a culmination of many different experiences that gave rise to a great semester and I could not have asked for anything better,” she said.
To learn more about AUI, visit the Global Education Office website. For more details about the group program, contact Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org.