Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies

Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies


MCAS is an Arabic language center committed to teaching Arabic as a foreign language so as to serve as a window into the culture of any Arabic speaking country.

Our mission is to make sure that the Arabic courses taught at MCAS will enable our students to speak and use the language confidently with ease, equipping students through our engaging classes with a strong basis by which they can understand and comprehend not only Morocco but the wider Arab world.

MCAS offers programs for students with a strong interest in developing their Arabic language skills while learning firsthand culture about contemporary Morocco through active involvement in the community. Through a combination of Arabic language and area studies courses taught in English and Arabic, students gain significant insight into the Moroccan society, politics, literature, religion, and Morocco’s relationships with the West and within the Arab world through detailed analysis of media reports.


United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

Morocco is a beautiful place with so many fun travel destinations! The beach, the desert, the mountains; all are incredible and a must see when volunteering with MCAS. Ali is super helpful when making travel plans and can point you in the direction for great places to visit. MCAS offers many different types of internships. The education internship is a great way to work with kids and be creative with lesson planning if your're interested in education. Rabat was an amazing place to live for the summer and there's lot of things to do! I felt very safe at my home-stay and comfortable walking alone throughout my trip. People in the city are very friendly and helpful. There are lots of great places to eat and the medina is always busy and fun! Highly recommend the program!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I didn't realize that the schools I would be teaching in wouldn't have any type of technology. I would have planned more in the states and probably brought supplies with me to use in the classroom. This is a great experience for utilizing experiential learning and out of the box thinking. I wasn't prepared, though, so I didn't get to do much of that. If you're planning on doing the education placement, definitely come up with lots of activities before you arrive!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Truly great experience in Rabat. A beautiful city to learn Arabic. I had a very warm welcome by Ali and Leyla at the Rabat train station. My lessons in Arabic couldn't be better. The teacher is very professional and patient...our lessons focused on all 4 disciplines and different topics from culture, traditions, food, politics and history. Every week we had a test on the new vocabulary learnt. The Accommodation and food with the local family was a truly immersion into the culture. They became my family and I was so sad to leave. The location was very centric, bang on the centre of the Souq. Very lively atmosphere! I went to a hamam, hairdressers, weekends away and I got exposed to Arabic.
I will be back at MCAS Rabat. I found the school very professional and organised, ready to assist on any matter.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Translation: Thanks to the hospitality of MCAS, I am here to experience the local customs of Morocco through a unique experience of volunteer + travel mode. I am very willing to recommend MCAS to Chinese college students. I want to call for Morocco too. Friends who have seen the 2018 Russia World Cup should be deeply impressed by the crazy call of CCTV5 Xuyang. Yes, Xu Yang’s guide to repeating the country is Morocco. Of course, he also won the nickname “Xu Zhimo”. At the time, Xu’s guidance emphasized the strong football atmosphere in Morocco. I really felt it in the days of Morocco. There are children playing everywhere in the streets and all kinds of shops on the street often sell a few Thai jerseys. From the perspective of a football fan, I think Moroccan football has a good fan base. The personal skills of Moroccan players are absolutely sufficient. If accompanied by scientific tactics and good execution, the Moroccan national team will definitely be able to play some results!

Return to the topic and brief you on my schedule for a few days in Morocco. On the round-trip ticket, it is recommended that you consider Hong Kong round-trip, so that the tax is small, much cheaper, and if there is a ticket, you do not need a Hong Kong and Macao pass. The largest airport in Morocco is Casa Mohammed V Airport, which is also convenient for transportation, but the MCAS station is in the capital Rabat. My schedule was four days in advance, playing; then I volunteered for 5 days in the old town of Rabat to teach my friends to learn Chinese and English. I had three days left to continue playing. Ali, the person in charge of MCAS, is really good. You can ask him for all kinds of things to book a ticket. Of course, I will speak Arabic, so I basically play with myself. On the first day, Rabat-Danjir-Shefshavwan, the second day of Chefchaouen-Fez, the third day of Fez-Evlan-Fez-Rabat. I am more eager to pursue speed, and I can guarantee efficiency. I can speak Arabic and prevent it from being pitted. So I basically got a clockwise loop in the northwest of Morocco for 3 days. Just a single chartered car will cost a lot of money. Then, after returning to Rabat, I was teaching the small basin friends in the morning. In the afternoon, the local volunteer lady led us to go around and prepare lessons in the evening or pack up. Xiaopen friends like China's various gadgets, but the English level is really uneven. Fortunately, I will speak Arabic, communicate with them as much as possible, praise more, encourage more, and the teaching is relatively smooth. In fact, this experience is also Very interesting. In the afternoon and evening, after the group activities are over, I will usually run out myself, take a tram around, and then find someone to practice Arabic. After five days of teaching, I took an IELTS test in the university town of Rabat. Speaking and writing really have an advantage, but listening is particularly difficult, so the total score is still not good. Then there was only one and a half days left, and I went to Casa at a very fast speed. I played half an afternoon, one night and one morning, but it was almost the same. The city’s tourism was too serious, and it should not be treated more. Everyone should be able to understand. Back to Rabat at noon, simply clean up in the afternoon, the plane in the evening.

When the trip is over, everything is going well.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
As a Chinese college student, I think this kind of volunteer + travel model is actually quite good, but the domestic seems to be less popular, so I think everyone can consider the "going out of the world" nonprofit organization. Then MCAS is a local cooperative organization in Morocco that has been carefully selected by the world. The experience is very rich and the model has already taken shape. Thanks to the two institutions for making me an unforgettable experience.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I went to Morocco in July 28- August 7 2019, it was greatest and happiest time in my life. I met girls and boys there which they are really nice and always with great ideas. I love them so much. As for my students, they are reeeeallly cute and talkative, I feel so young when i with them, and I think I found the meaning of my life. I feel that I am meaningful to society. I am needed and loved by the children. I’m so appreciated for that. It was super glory to me. As for the host, they are really friendly and always try to help us. They give us a lot of advice which is really useful. As for Morocco, it is a great country. People are nice and Passionate, we I walked on the street every one say hi to me hahaha. People there are good at enjoying life. It influenced me a lot. I should thank for everything.

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Yes, I recommend this program

This is a very unforgettable and amazing trip. I met a lots of friends from different cultural backgrounds. The staffs of the volunteer center are very nice .they can always give us effective supports when we need.but i think the activities they organized are a little bit boring.and in fact the kids in school seems hard to follow our teaching schedule.maybe if the volunteers center give us a basic teaching schedule ,we can organize the teaching activity more effectively.thanks for the local guidance ,the local organizers ,they ensure the safety of us and make us can adjust to the local culture quickly.and thanks this trip, thanks all the colleagues, the efforts of everyone makes the trip become happy ,interesting and meaningful. I really hope it is not the last time that we gather together.

What would you improve about this program?
Please offer the volunteers a more comfortable and capacious house to live.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Lydia Ruotolo

Lydia is a high school senior who hopes to become involved with global studies in college. She has a small obsession with chickens, loves traveling, and has done service in Morocco, Cambodia, Thailand, and India.
Volunteering in Morocco

Why did you pick this program?

I participate in a local non-profit organization that gives youth the opportunity to travel around the world and do service. I believe they have our best interests in mind and essentially scour the globe to ensure we help people as much as we can while also being safe. During this search, they happened upon the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies and they recognized how amazing it was.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

The most important thing when going abroad is to make sure you are open to new experiences. Unexpected things are bound to happen, so it is better to go into your journey with an open mind and without too many expectations.

This has the added benefit of opening you up to the culture and the people more as well. The unpredictable is what makes traveling an adventure. If it were exactly as you expected, why even travel in the first place?

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

To embrace the people and the culture. Morocco has one of the most beautiful belief systems that I have ever witnessed and it's the people that help covey it so well.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Through life, people need to learn several lessons of high importance: how to be patient, kind, forgiving, and more. However, one of the most important lessons is how to say goodbye. The kids, as well as the translators that I met are, without a doubt, my family. This knowledge and love just makes it that much harder to leave them. I need them to teach me how to say goodbye.

I have been with my students for two weeks with over 43 hours of teaching. Through the long days and difficult content, they have persevered and done their best to absorb what we have taught them. Their ability to retain and remember information fills me with pride on a daily basis. Even though we have taught them fairly mundane things like ordering food and going to the market, it absolutely means the world to them.

They hold onto pieces of information as tightly as they possibly can, knowing that it will be so useful for their lives. What moves me more than anything else, is that they remember who I am as a person. All of them can easily identify my personality and they respect me for it. In this way, they constantly remind me of why I love these service trips so much. For the past two weeks, my five students have become my life, making it difficult to imagine leaving them. In order to leave these students, they need to teach me how to say goodbye.

Remembrance is a huge part of the culture in Morocco and I see that parallel in the families that we had the privilege to meet. When we visited the families of different students, there were many times that we encountered those who had lost family members. The family of Kevin's student, Helema, had lost a daughter only four years ago. While the sadness must have still been crushing, they spoke about her and remembered her with such reverence and love.

This same beautiful remembrance could be found in nearly all of the home visits. At another house of one of Kevin's students, Amina, the remembrance they had for their deceased or far away family members was powerful. Amina's father said that he has come to learn that it's important to talk about people who are gone as if they were there, because it honors them and helps to continue memories of them. With this idea of remembering others, the people slowly teach me how to say goodbye.

To say hello in Moroccan Arabic, you say Salamu'lekum which means peace be upon you. For goodbye, you either say m'a salama meaning with peace, or lla yhennik which means, may Allah give you tranquility.

On our last day of school, we had a massive review day and a vocabulary bee to go over all that they have learned. It was a day of remembering, fun, and it was the day that cumulatively reminded me how much I love those little chums. At the end of the school day, I gave them homemade cards and said a brief goodbye.

Despite the fact that we would see them in six hours for the party, the goodbye that they gave us was tearful and solemn. It was when they asked when I would come back that my heart ripped a little. I don't know where my life and my travels will take me yet, the future is uncertain. Step by step, they teach me how to say goodbye.

The party that we hosted for the students from Abdasalam Sayah was a chance for me to be with my kids one last time. It was the last chance I got to be with the crazy and funny Fatima who is actually my soulmate. Those were the last hours that I was able to spend with spirited Aya and sensitive Malak. I savored the last moments with sweet Amina and generous Hanan.

We danced for hours with joy and I couldn't help but think that I hope they remember me as they remember their lessons as well as other people so well. When it was finally time to say goodbye, I couldn't help but cry. They all tried to comfort me, only to fall into a pile of tears themselves. Everyone from the school and from the Moroccan center for Arabic Studies made an impact on my heart. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever done, but they finally taught me how to say goodbye.

How has this trip changed you?

My journey to Morocco is one that I won't soon forget. I fell in love with the kids I taught and I became very close to the translators and directors of the MCAS program. When you travel, you start out thinking only of the place where you are going, but by the end it seems to be the people you meet that matter most.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Ali Bensebaa

We recently chatted with the Director of MCAS, Bensebaa, to learn more about MCAS and the philosophy behind their study abroad programs.

What position do you hold at MCAS? What has been your career path so far?

Ali: My name is Ali and I am the founder and study abroad director of the Moroccan Center for Arabic Studies. I had the idea of establishing a center that would teach Arabic as a foreign language, then I was so surprised that US and other Universities were not only interested in Arabic Learning , but rather in an immersion program where students can learn a new language but most importantly be able to immerse themselves into the community where they live and thus use the language. I was very intrigued with the way students have change at the end of their programs and the amount of knowledge they have gained upon finishing their study abroad terms here with us. Thus, I was very motivated to work hard and maintain a good will for MCAS across the world and reach out to more partners.

Right now, we offer so many programs, combined with study abroad terms, we have internships abroad in many areas, volunteerism plus Arabic classes. My career path has been full of challenges, but I learned so much, when I came back from the US in 2009 as a Fullbright scholar, I had the chance to work with a school that offers programs to foreigners, but I felt that I was like a slave in there despite the experience I learned. Given the fact that I was very quick-witted and someone who was like a jack of all trades inside that place, I told myself why do not I own start up my business, now that I know what it takes. I worked so hard while studying for a Business Administration and teaching English and Arabic and thus I gained so much during this phase.

Did YOU study abroad?

Ali: Yes! I was a FullBright Scholar for 1 year between 2008 and 2009. I studied in SUNY Albany. I felt so lucky to have been given this opportunity to study at one of the most prestigious schools, and learn so much from an educational system that empowers its individuals. I was inspired by how friendly, supporting, helpful and encouraging American people were with students, and thus I am right now trying to impart that to them here on my end.

What does the future hold for MCAS - any exciting new programs to share?

Ali: I think the future is always unknown for any organization, however I can humbly say that MCAS is in a very good position today especially with the turmoil that the MENA region is undergoing-like in Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Tunisia. Morocco remains a politically stable ground allowing for business to grow. The new programs that I am right now offering is learn and volunteer or learn and intern abroad in Morocco. Marrying these elements definitely gives the students a first hand experience of what Morocco is. I personally believe that it is one of the most exciting programs because students feel that they are engaged into the community and are able to challenge the status quo.

What about the future of the industry? How do you think study abroad and international education will change over the next 10 years?

Ali: This is a hard question to answer, but I think international education will always be a big added value on the future of any individual deciding to embark on an experience abroad, surely students or people who have lived or studied abroad are likely to be get a job over those that have not. I think Morocco is still a new place where there are merely just 30 study abroad programs in all over the kingdom; this means that the market is still open to penetration if I can use a marketing term here.

Which study abroad destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

Ali: I think Morocco is still underrated because very few people know about Morocco, although, historically, Morocco was the first country to recognize the US. One of the most overrated study abroad destination is Middle East and not North Africa; but again with the Arab Spring waves still destabilizing the region, Morocco gained so much momentum and thus is becoming increasing known to people as far as the US is concerned; while Europe is another story.