Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Simms

Amanda Simms is currently a Senior at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio where she studies Athletic Training. She is from Goshen, Ohio and aspires to be a physical therapist. Amanda studied abroad in Meknes, Morocco from June to August of 2011. She enjoys traveling, sports, and recreating crafts from Pinterest.

Why choose ISA?

Amanda riding a camel in the Sahara Desert!

Amanda:Studying abroad with ISA was a very easy decision for me to make. When I was trying to decide on a program the first thing that attracted me to ISA was the program book. There were very colorful pictures, most of which taken by students, and it seemed to be the easiest to navigate. Upon further research I found ISA to be the most inclusive. I didn’t have to figure in other costs with ISA that I found to be missing in the advertised price of other programs. ISA was also very affordable, reputable, and flexible. I was able to find a program that I loved, that I could afford, and that I could fit into my coursework.

What made this study abroad experience unique and special?

Amanda: Studying abroad is absolutely an experience of a lifetime! The sense of independence and accomplishment are almost overwhelming. Being able to travel to and live in another country where English is not widely spoken, and the cultural is like nothing I have ever experienced made me feel as if I could conquer the world. The way of life is so relaxed and pleasant. Everyone I met was so friendly and helpful. I have made lifelong friends in Morocco that I plan to go back and visit one day. Morocco is one of the most amazing countries on Earth. No where else have I seen such a beautiful and diverse landscape. You can visit the desert, the mountains, and the beach all within a day’s drive.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Amanda: ISA has opened up a plethora of opportunities for me. First and foremost it is a resume builder. ISA has a global ambassador program which is an on campus internship that allows me to share my experiences and encourage other students to study abroad. This program has provided me with the opportunity to present to classes at the college and high school level. The experience of studying abroad has made me very aware of the international students on campus. I sometimes will go out of my way to introduce myself because I understand what it’s like to be an international student myself. I feel that my experience abroad will be of greater benefit when I enter the Missionary field later in life.

Highlights: I enjoyed my entire stay in Meknes making it an extremely difficult decision to choose a “highlight” from my time abroad. The most amazing experience I had was my trip to the Sahara desert. I stayed in a very nice riad, and rode a camel an hour and a half into the desert to an oasis where we stayed the night under the stars. My favorite weekend in Morocco was during our Assilah excursion. Assilah is a very picturesque and relaxing beach destination. I played beach volleyball with locals, shopped at the unique medina, and even attended a carnival on the beach. As a group we all took one day to travel to a remote beach nearby where cars cannot even travel to. That day is one of my favorites from my stay in Morocco.

I studied for a summer term, which meant my classes were only 5 weeks long. This made for very long class periods, but it was actually very doable. My professors were a true joy to be in class with. They honestly cared about how well were understanding the material rather than focusing on the grades and exams. I was easily able to meet with and communicate with my professors outside of class. My Arabic professor is by far one of my favorite professors. He made class fun, and was eager to learn more from us, especially regarding his English spelling. I felt so accomplished to be able to go out into the streets and read all of the Arabic signs, as well as being able to have a simple conversation with locals. When I was in Merzouga I had lost my way for a moment, but was able to ask someone for directions with the Arabic I learned in class. I felt as if I could travel anywhere in the Arabic world at that moment.

Amanda during her study abroad in Morocco!

Morning: A morning in Meknes is very simple and relaxed. My roommates and I would get up and ready for school just like we would have in the US. We would grab some fruit and toast for breakfast and head towards the grand taxi station passing several cafes along the way. It took us about 20 minutes to walk to the grand taxi station where six of us would climb into the old Mercedes whose route took us to “ah dab” or “faculet.” The taxi would let us out on the road at the bottom of the university campus, and we would hike up the hill past the goats entering through the grand doors to the university campus greeted sweetly by the security guards. During our mid-class break, other students and I would go down to the lounge and enjoy some fresh squeezed orange juice and some cookies.

Afternoon: If I didn’t have class in the afternoon I would typically go back to my apartment via bus to eat lunch. Our “housemother” would be there in the afternoon cooking and cleaning. She would prepare a fresh Moroccan lunch for us everyday throughout the week. The food looked so good I wouldn’t even want to eat it, but it was so delicious I couldn’t help myself. On Fridays she would make couscous for us which is a staple Moroccan meal. After lunch I would work on any homework, which sometimes included going to the ISA office a few blocks away.

Evening: In the evening I would usually go out with my roommates and/or local students we met at the university after dinner made by our housemother. One of our favorite places to go was “Salamanca”. It is right on the town square where all the locals gather. Most nights we would be accompanied by other Moroccan students we had met. We would get ice cream or pastries and sit around to talk just as all the local Meknes citizens would do. Sometimes we would head to the old medina and shop if it was still daylight, or attend a concert or other event. Nightlife in Meknes is very lively. One will see entire families sitting out enjoying the cooler night air. There are several younger cafes with college age students within walking distance anywhere in Hamria, one in particular in close proximity to Pizza Hut.