My name is Sofia Deak and I am a junior at the University of Southern California, studying International Relations and Global Business. I am originally from New Jersey, so when I first moved to Los Angeles, I considered this a huge transition. I remember feeling mostly excited to go, but in the days before I left, I felt really nervous about all of the unknowns. Now, I feel completely comfortable in California, and know that my fears were unfounded — it has been an amazing adventure living in LA! I am hoping for a similar experience with Rabat, with my fears quickly turning into excitement and eventually feeling a sense of ease in my new home.
Despite my current predeparture nerves, I have been looking forward to studying abroad since I first started college. I began learning Arabic my freshman year, and immediately fell in love with the language. Two years into my language study, I am slowly improving, but sometimes I feel like the more I learn, the less I actually know. In addition, everyone I know who speaks Arabic has warned me many times about how different the dialect in Morocco is from the Standard Arabic I study. They usually laugh when I tell them I am going to Morocco and hope to improve my Arabic there, saying “No one will be able to understand what you are saying there — before or after you go!” However, I feel I am up to that challenge and am really excited to learn some Moroccan dialect! I am planning to get a lot of practice by testing out my bartering skills in the souqs.
I am not completely unfamiliar with the different local dialects, and I already know some Syrian Arabic. This past semester, I became involved with providing assistance to Syrian refugees living in Southern California, as San Diego is the city with the highest concentration of Syrian refugees in the United States. Over 1,000 refugees have arrived there this year, and spending time with them and getting to know them over the past couple of months has done wonders for my Arabic skills and speaking confidence. This has also become my driving passion, and I intend to continue working with refugees after I graduate from college. My goal is to be able to converse more easily with them in Arabic.
Since my main goal for my semester abroad is to make some serious language gains, I am really excited to be around other Arabic speakers all the time! I have never lived with a host family before and I cannot wait to meet them and practice speaking with them. I will be assigned to my family during my first week in Rabat, and while this is the biggest unknown for me so far, it is also what I am looking forward to the most! Through spending time with the Syrian families in California, I have realized that I learn best just listening to the language and forcing myself to use it. I am just so excited to embark on this journey and cannot wait to see how it changes me.
I hope, in four months time, I am able to look back on this first blog entry and laugh at how little I knew, smile at memories from my many adventures, and be amazed at how much I have learned throughout my time in Morocco.