A day in Ifrane: Trump, translations and swearing in Arabic


Sara Katona

Editor’s note: Sara Katona is a St. Edward’s University student studying abroad in Ifrane, Morocco.

Sometimes, I forget I’m thousands of miles away from home.

My days in Morocco seem relatively normal. I wake up, go to class, study, go to rugby or frisbee practice and hang out with friends. The thing is, when you’re studying in another country, none of those things are the “normal” that you’d be used to; you have to adapt, become the “normal” of the new place you’re living in.

Most days, I wake up to my alarm or the Muslim call to prayer known as the adhan. The adhan as I’m used to is blasted through speakers on the minaret of mosques five times a day; the prayer is recited by a muezzin or worship leader.

When I go to class, I try to sit beside one of my Moroccan friends so he or she can translate whatever Arabic phrases my professor throws into lectures. Since most of my classes are about politics, I have to prepare myself for the blunt questions the native Moroccan or other international students ask.

I’ve heard questions such as: “Professor, why does the United States always try to fight with Russia?” and “Professor, why is Donald Trump leading in American polls?”

My professors generously defer to the American students such as myself, so we can voice our own assumptions and try to sound somewhat informed. Even though we try to provide knowledgeable answers, we should probably just stick with “I have no clue” because that, more often than not, is the reality.

You know how at St. Ed’s you have to go to class 15 minutes early so you can quickly chat with every friend you see on the way? In Morocco, you can’t just pass by a friend. You have to stop and talk and actually listen to the answer when you ask “How are you?”

You kiss each cheek at least once. You throw in some Arabic phrases. You look antsy because you have a quiz in approximately three minutes and class is four minutes away. Your friend is in the middle of telling you about her brother’s class trip to Rabat. You just sit there and take it. You think it will never end until you’ve embraced and exchanging goodbye kisses.

Sports in Morocco don’t vary much from sports in the US, except that Facebook group chats about them are in Arabic. Swearing is done in Arabic. Team chants? Arabic. Oh, but referees speak in French.

Finally, we come to chilling with friends. My international friends come from everywhere — ranging from Korea to Denmark. My Moroccan friends come from all around the country. We all speak varying levels of English, but sometimes you just have to sit and listen to your friends speaking in Arabic, French, Danish, Italian, Korean and oftentimes, a hybrid.

My new home is different from anything I’ve ever known. My new friends are different from anyone I’ve ever known. My new life is just different, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.