Introducing Isabel Spence – Spring 2013 Morocco Blog Abroad Correspondent

“Hey Isabel, want to go to China?”

Amazing how a simple phrase can have a life-changing effect on a person. When my mother proposed to me the opportunity of traveling for two weeks with fellow students on a high school trip, I jumped at the chance and forever altered my future. I was 15 at the time and was already fascinated by world events and foreign cultures. On one of my first days in China, I visited the American Embassy in Beijing, and upon hearing what the job of a Foreign Service Officer is like I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Me in Tiananmen Square!

Me in Tiananmen Square!

My goals to be a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) in the future has fueled a lot of my life choices and certainly plays a part in my desire to study in Morocco. I am currently a Junior at Boston University and I grew up a Massachusetts resident. At BU, I major in International Relations with a regional concentration in Africa and the Middle East and a functional concentration in Cultural Anthropology and Regional Politics as well as minoring in Arabic. Therefore, studying in Rabat for a semester fits perfectly with my academic goals.

In my free time, I love watching a variety of movies and television shows (I love horror in particular). I’m a self-proclaimed book worm with a love of singing and dance. At BU, I sing in the fabulous Marsh Chapel Choir, which performs every Sunday. I’m also a brother in the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. Besides that, I love holistic yoga and have been a member of the Yoga Club at BU since freshman year.

Adventuring is awesome. Here are my BU buddies and I in NYC.

Adventuring is awesome. Here are my BU buddies and I in NYC.

As with many events in my life, my decision to study Arabic was made a bit on a whim and greatly changed my life. Initially I had planned to study Hindi in college but had read that the US government was interested in hiring those who were fluent in Russian, Mandarin, or Arabic. I felt Arabic was a language I might be able to work with and I have never regretted studying it. I now have three semesters of Arabic under my belt and though I am no pro, my passion and love of studying Arabic has rarely been matched in my other classes. I happily await my Arabic classes in Morocco, as I will get to take three Arabic classes at once: Modern Standard Arabic, the regional dialect and Arabic used in the Media! One of my major goals for studying abroad is to really improve my Arabic fluency.

Another aspect I look forward to is that of living with a host family. It’s wonderful studying Arabic in America and I am very fortunate in going to a University which has such an incredible Arabic program, but I predict and hope that living with a family that speaks Arabic will really help my conversational skills. I know that a lot of the Arabic I have learned won’t directly help my conversations with most Moroccans as many are not taught Modern Standard and instead speak a form of Arabic that has been highly French-influenced. This is therefore a challenge I anticipate and worry over.

Most of the time though, I try not to worry about what the adventure will be like and just maintain the positive energy I feel toward it. It will be an incredible and unusual trip (most of my friends, if they even studied abroad went to a European country) and I can’t wait for it to begin! I want to take a moment to thank some of the people that have made this journey possible for me.



First of all, my wonderful family and especially my parents for being the most supportive people, like, ever!! I also have to thank all of my amazing friends, especially my group at BU who are like a second family to me. Specifically I want to thank my conversation partner Muhammed who has been helping improve my Arabic for over a year, I’ll miss you, sadiqi!

Last and certainly not least, I’d like to thank my professors at BU who have been so helpful and such an inspiration. Professor Tilchin, thank you for the recommendations and awesome insights on the Cold War. Professor Norton, being in your class this last semester has really inspired me to pursue my goals; thank you so much for the recommendation and I hope one day to have a life as exciting as yours! Giselle (Professor Khoury) I guarantee without having you as a professor my Arabic would be terrible and I probably would have given up after the first few weeks. Shukran jidan!

Finally, thanks to AMIDEAST for this chance. I can’t wait for it all to begin. Next stop: Morocco!


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Filed under Area & Arabic Language Studies, Isabel Spence, Morocco, Rabat

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